Moonage Daydream – A Brett Morgen Film
Director Brett Morgen’s film about David Bowie, Moonage Daydream, is hardly a straight-ahead artist documentary or biopic, instead collaging together a career story (of sorts) with Bowie as its narrator (of sorts). With the cooperation of Bowie’s estate (the singer died in 2016, two days after releasing his final album, Blackstar), Morgen was given access to his vast archives, and the film presents a fair bit of unearthed audio and video for the first time. Like the movie, the soundtrack is also kaleidoscopic in its approach: It opens and closes with spoken-word passages that exemplify two of Bowie's many sides—the questing philosopher and the lighthearted, jovial entertainer. In between those bookends are 41 songs (more if you tally up the multi-song medleys) that span Bowie’s catalog. But rather than run down his greatest hits, the soundtrack examines the artist’s wide-ranging creative breadth, with many inclusions given their own exclusive mixes or edits for the film. That opening segment doesn’t just cut to track two; it’s woven into “Ian Fish U.K. Heir,” an ambient track from 1993’s soundtrack for the miniseries The Buddha of Suburbia, which then segues into the Pet Shop Boys-featuring remix of “Hallo Spaceboy,” from 1995’s Outside. In other words, the focus here isn’t “Let’s Dance”—though that does appear in its live form, as do a number of other literal crowd-pleasers. What you don’t hear while wandering the aisles at Trader Joe's are things like Bowie's boundary-pushing excursions with Brian Eno, such as “Moss Garden” or a live version of “Warszawa”—which opens side two of 1977’s Low, Bowie’s most experimental recording at the time—or an alternate version of “The Mysteries” that’s been mixed with lyrics from “Absolute Beginners.” It’s these sorts of pieces that do so much: They offer a contrasting look at one of the 20th and 21st century's most successful pop singers, lending themselves perfectly to a nonlinear film narrative while also highlighting the poetic searching that made Bowie such a revelatory and revolutionary artist.