TIFF 2022: Brett Morgen’s ‘Moonage Daydream’

When I was a kid, I was fascinated with the future. In particular, the future depicted in movies like David Lynch’s Dune and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Alien. As my life’s unfolded I’ve always, consciously or unconsciously, tried to form it around the idea of making the younger me’s vision a reality. Musically, my first two favourite ‘grown-up’ artists were Prince and David Bowie. Both felt like the kind of music and the type of star that one imagines in a future world – outside the constraints of ‘normal’ fashion, gender, or ideology and feeling, in every sense of the word, otherworldly. I’m not sure I could ever have articulated that at the time, preferring just to say that they were ‘cool’, but that was good enough.

Brett Morgan’s Moonage Daydream somehow encapsulates Bowie in a way that I didn’t think was possible. Bowie is so many different things to so many people, including himself, that a single movie doesn’t seem like enough. Hell, even a full six-seasons-and-a-movie doesn’t even seem sufficient to scratch the surface of the prolific musician, artist, sculptor, fashion icon, and filmmaker. But Morgan’s portrayal, which combines many interviews with Bowie over the course of his life, concert footage, and compelling visual art from both Bowie himself and his inspirations somehow manages it. It flits about, unconcerned with chronology, to connect concepts and themes in Bowie’s work from various ‘periods’ in the artist’s life to one another. Because Bowie could never be an artist that simply evolves from one thing to the next, shedding his skin and leaving it there. He seemed to travel outside time and space, visiting his former selves and influencing them from the future. It’s the kind of controlled chaos, that unrestrained creativity and expression that drew me to him in the first place. 

Bowie defines himself, in one interview, as a “collector” of personas and ideas, and I think what Moonage Daydream achieves is to display, celebrate, and most importantly to understand the many ways that the world fascinated Bowie and vice versa. You can see the (Little) wonder plainly on his face as he talks about Oscar Peterson, or as he tours Southeast Asia, or Berlin, or Hong Kong. To understand Bowie, if such a thing is possible, is to understand how he would collect these influences and reflect them back into the world, a conversation via art, film, and, of course, music that served to enrich both artist and audience. 

Though the screening I attended wasn’t presented in IMAX, the theatrical release will be, and it’s worth it to experience Moonage Daydream on the best screen with, especially, the best sound you can find. The visuals, which echo the various periods in Bowie’s career, pop right off the screen and create an immersive experience, whether you’re flying through the recesses of space or in a kaleidoscopic fever dream. Remastered songs like ‘DJ’ and ‘All The Young Dudes’ sound like I’m hearing them for the first time, and unreleased tracks like a live cover of The Beatles’ ‘Love Me Do’ with Jeff Beck on guitar feel like they were released just yesterday, or perhaps tomorrow.

Because, and I believe this in my heart, Bowie was someone that really did come from the future. And it’s a future that humanity is nowhere close to realizing yet. Even posthumously, his consciousness having left our reality, Bowie still seems many steps ahead. And that’s a hopeful thought because if Bowie’s world, his daydream, is still on the horizon, it gives us something to work and build towards. Bowie showed us that beautiful things are possible, and that the creativity of our dreams can and must be brought forth into the world. Both for it’s benefit, and our own.

Brett Morgen’s Moonage Daydream comes to theatres on September 16, 2022.

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