The 8 things we learned from the new David Bowie film Moonage Daydream

David Bowie in Moonage Daydream
(Image credit: Moonage Daydream)

“Who is he? What is he? Where did he come from?" questions a man in the trailer. "Is he a creature of a foreign power? Is he a creep? Is he dangerous? Is he smart? Dumb? Nice to his parents? Real? A put-on? Crazy, sane, man, woman, robot? What is this?". Many have tried to uncover the man behind the enigmatic shapeshifter and musical legend that was David Bowie. Moonage Daydream however, the first fully sanctioned film about the late musician, does its best to put an end to the mystery. Through sifting through hours of archival footage, director Brett Morgen (Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck, Jane), has pieced together fragments of his life via visual, moving collage, offering an “immersive” journey through “sublime, kaleidoscopic imagery, personal archived footage, unseen performances”, narrated by Bowie’s own words. After checking out the film for ourselves, here are our top eight takeaways:

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It’s a speedy rocket-ship blast through Bowie’s life, so hold on tight 

Moonage Daydream is a technicolour deep-dive into the world of David Bowie; clocking in at two hours and 14 minutes long, within this time you’ll see a countless number of images that will require you to forgo gazing down the bottom of your popcorn box for crumbs, and keep full attention locked on the screen – look away, and you might miss something, as it’s pretty fast paced.

Its momentum however is warranted, as Moonage Daydream explores Bowie’s life all the way from his formative days as a young mulleted Ziggy Stardust putting on makeup in the mirror to his captivating Berlin years and beyond. In spite of this, it never feels rushed, but rather a suction-packed showcase of a complicated and multi-faceted artist whose essence is perfectly captured; after all, Bowie could never quite stand still.

David Bowie really was an LGBTQ+ icon and far ahead of his time

Bowie’s progressiveness as a member of the LGBTQ+ community is one of his many qualities that is possibly overlooked. Thankfully, the film takes a few moments to capture just how ahead of his time he was in fighting for representation, and the influence that his headstrong attitude inspired amongst his fans. 

One inspiring moment in the film shows his thoughts on gender roles. In an 1973 interview with television presenter Russell Harty, a Ziggy-fied Bowie is mockingly questioned about his androgynous fashion choices. “And what about the shoes, are those women's shoes or men's shoes or bisexual shoes?” the host asks. In response, Bowie quips nonchalantly: “They’re shoe shoes silly!” In other footage, male fans attending early shows speak of their relaxed attitudes towards wearing makeup, all thanks to Bowie.

The next best thing to experience if you never saw David Bowie live

The music was always going to be phenomenal with longtime collaborator/music producer Tony Visconti and award-winning sound mixer Paul Massey (Bohemian Rhapsody) behind the desk, but when you hear it in person, it’s a whole other ballgame. One standout addition is the second appearance of Hallo Spaceboy, which, with its Prodigy-esque intense, thumping rhythm, feels like you’ve been transported into a rave. Be warned though, it all gets pretty loud.

It makes you feel close to him 

As fans, learning things about your favourite artist feels like an important way to delve into their headspace. What was their upbringing like? What likes, dislikes and interests did they have to be able to produce such music? Moonage Daydream doesn’t answer these questions overtly, but presents the building blocks of who Bowie was, by encapsulating his spirit like an interactive X-Ray scan of his brain presented on the big screen, pinning everyone from his brother Terry Burns, to magician Aleister Crowley and philosopher Friedrich Nietzche as key influences.

It’s like a 2 hour therapy session with the man himself

No matter what sort of day you’re having, Moonage Daydream will leave you feeling renewed. It’s packed full of life-affirming quotes that feel therapizing. "All people, no matter who they are, all wish they'd appreciated life more," Bowie offers in one moment. "It's what you do in life that's important, not how much time you have or what you wished you'd done." Elsewhere, he gives advice to creatives and says the familiar but poignant quote: “...Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”

It tells the story without really telling it – it’s not a biopic!

If you’re expecting to see a rehash of films such as Bohemian Rhapsody or Rocketman, you’ll be disappointed, as Moonage Daydream exists far from the straight-forward, conventional realm of the star-studded biopic. Rather, it’s more like a piece of artwork. Instead of being anchored by a linear time frame of someone’s life, it features a dream-like myriad of performance footage, interview moments, photoshoots and external influences, including clips from films and cartoons (such as Nosferatu, The Passion of Joan of Arc, Metropolis and even Mickey Mouse), artistically woven together like paint strokes on a canvas.

Prepare to fall into a psychedelic rabbit hole of visual, breath-taking chaos

Florescent flashes, camera leaks, flares, textures, collages; Moonage Daydream is a dizzying, kaleidoscopic whirlwind, bursting with all the colours of the cosmos. It’s visually stunning; from the sparkling glam of Bowie’s earlier fashion to the swirling hues that bleed into the gleaming, high-definition imagery – whatever views you may have on the film, it’s without a doubt an astounding watch on aesthetic alone. 

Bowie was a brilliant artist too

Another thing about Bowie that was possibly overlooked was his ability as an artist. Within the film, it shines a light on his deep sense of vulnerability and the imposter syndrome that he felt in terms of his career as an artist, and how he never felt comfortable enough to allow galleries to feature his work or show his paintings to the public. Meanwhile, we’re treated to a visual galore of his best pieces, which are utterly mesmerising to view.

Moonage Daydream will hit Imax theatres worldwide on September 16 and general cinemas on September 23.

Liz Scarlett

Liz works on keeping the Louder sites up to date with the latest news from the world of rock and metal. Prior to joining Louder as a full time staff writer, she completed a Diploma with the National Council for the Training of Journalists and received a First Class Honours Degree in Popular Music Journalism. She enjoys writing about anything from neo-glam rock to stoner, doom and progressive metal, and loves celebrating women in music.