How many David Bowie is it possible to fit into one feature documentary? Or how much David Bowie-ness, shall we say? Moonage Daydream, a hugely creative tribute to all that Bowie has accomplished in four and a half decades, raises the bar as a cinematic fan service, and it leaves you sizzling.
Brett Morgen’s film, which just had its world premiere at a midnight slot in Cannes, sparks with plenty of ideas and juxtapositions, thrilling snippets of live performance, and just, so much Bowie, it’s an experience to eagerly inhale into a crowded cinema. Bowie’s longtime producer Tony Visconti (who has remastered the songs for surround sound) deserves nothing less – if I ever catch someone looking at it with tinny earbuds on a laptop, instead of grabbing the chance to have them electrified loudly at the highest possible screen, there will be hell to pay.
Tomorrow is well known in the documentary world – he co-directed the Robert Evans insider memoir The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002), and won Emmys for both Jane (2017) (about the anthropologist Jane Goodall) and Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck ( 2015). The latter film was hailed as the definitive Cobain doc and, with its animated interludes and previously unreleased home video footage, moved somewhat in the direction of the kaleidoscopic collage that Morgen now lands on.
Tomorrow, however, sat down with interview topics for Cobain, and it’s the removal of those here that relaxes the latest restrictions, formally speaking. Instead, it manages to freely associate, rock, put Bowie in charge of the story, and to trace the periods of his career with a keen sense of chronology that never lingers. These are some pretty impressive feats for a music documentary to juggle, while also feeling fast and much shorter than 140 minutes. Disciples could really watch this all day long.
Bowie’s archive has been opened to Tomorrow, and it includes not only a wealth of essential live performances – including long-lost footage from his 1978 Isolar II tour performance at Earl’s Court – but all the fuss around them, hyped fans in cosplay- setting the scene for his concerts around the world. Scan the faces in line outside one of the early London shows, and a young Mick Jagger lurks in wait during a dizzying opening salvo, set to “Hello Spaceboy”, acting like gangbusters to get you in the mood.