I finally got round to watching Moonage Daydream

Apr 8, 2023 - 3 minute read

I’ve always been a big fan of Bowie’s music but have been somewhat ambivalent about a lot of the other stuff: the fashion, the personas, all the sketchy stuff he got into in his nose-candy years. So, as amazing as the old V&A show looked a few years back, I wasn’t that gutted to have missed it. My relationship with the great man had always been more of an eardrums thing than an eyeballs thing.

This was probably why I didn’t head out to the cinema to catch Moonage Daydream and caught it after it dropped on Netflix this week. Now my eyeballs are berating me for depriving them of the full blown cinematic experience. After watching it, the visual element of Bowie finally made sense to me. How could the music have come into being without the personas, the videos and the stage setups?

The title of the film belies the structure, Moonage Daydream plays out like a dream. Chronology plays a part as we move from Ziggy Stardust to Blackstar but the way it all comes together plays out like an impressionistic, fragmentary stream of consciousness rather than the well-defined factoids that mark the territory of most documentaries. This one was more of a collage, a work of art in its own right glued together by the director, Brett Morgen. This isn’t a documentary, the three BBC “Five Years” films have already given us all we need in that respect. This was more an attempt to catch a certain energy, a creative essence rather than all the right facts in the right order.

Throughout this fever dream, the voice of Bowie interjects, sometimes in response to audible interlocutors and other times on its own. Russell Harty, a vague beige memory of what the back of my brain remembers the eighties were really like, appears a few too many times, mainly because he so ably demonstrates the bourgeois tedium that Bowie often aimed to punch through. In the closing reel, Bowie often speaks of the privilege of living any given day on earth and his obligation to keep producing art of some kind.

Most of us will never hit the heights that Bowie hit, professionally or creatively. And yet, this film told me that none of that mattered when Bowie was creating and performing. For most of his life, before he found a truly happy relationship in his final decades, that was the place where he was truly at his most content. All of us still have an opportunity to find that space within our own existence. It’s always there, every day, hour, minute and second, until it’s not.