Throughout the career of pop legend David Bowie – especially as he burst onto the scene as alter ego Ziggy Stardust – the question of personal and artistic identity was at the fore of his publicity. Brett Morgen’s documentary seeks no answers beyond the simple ones Bowie offers interviewers: exploration, continual collection of new material, and a bit of fun. To this end, Moonage Daydream starts with bombast and continues relentlessly in this vein. Footage of historical events and concerts are spliced together with landmark films and pieces Bowie drew inspiration from, as his own paintings flash on the screen to the rhythms of his ever-changing musical styles. The effect is overwhelming, and joyous. 

There is no retrospective from today’s perspective; instead, all dialogue and voiceovers are either presented as part of archive footage (a young woman, Bowie pin on her shoulder, sobbing about missing her chance to see the star) or cuts from Bowie’s interviews overlaid on performance footage as a quasi-commentary track. Watching Bowie the interviewee alongside Bowie the performer proves the artist’s own place as an eloquent and astute commentator on his processes and creative drives. 

Even at 140 minutes, the documentary does not claim to be a complete retrospective; many eras, personas, and artistic experiments are glossed over. Its focus is instead twofold: the genesis of Bowie’s stage presence, and the continual dialogue and reinvention with this mega-stardom once established. Relievingly, Moonage Daydream does not force a conclusion; the time spent with Bowie is enough, and no message needs to be superimposed onto his purposefully varied and eclectic career. 

The boldness and breadth of vision more than forgives the documentary’s slightly overstretched length and the occasional re-used footage. Moonage Daydream is a dazzling, kaleidoscopic experience of the type Bowie (or one of his many guises) may have approved. 



DIRECTOR: Brett Morgen

SYNOPSIS: A documentary exploring the genesis of David Bowie through his words and the art that inspired him.