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Moonage Daydream (15, 135 minutes)
Verdict: a starman and a quirk
Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song (12A, 118 mins)
Verdict: full of treasures
David Bowie was a rock star like no other, and Moonage Daydream is an appropriately unique documentary, ostensibly about his remarkable life, but in reality more like a two-hour journey through his relentlessly fickle mind.
The last movie I saw about Bowie was the hopelessly misunderstood 2020 biopic Stardust, which featured a disastrously misguided Johnny Flynn as the man himself, a practice doubly hampered by the Bowie estate’s refusal to allow the use of his music. to allow.
Moonage Daydream gives writer-director Brett Morgen, in stark contrast, the opposite problem.
David Bowie was a rock star like no other, and Moonage Daydream is a suitably unique documentary, ostensibly about his remarkable life, but actually more like a journey, a journey of over two hours, through his relentlessly mercurial mind.
Bowie’s notoriously protective guardians have given him access to every nook and cranny, including all concert footage and all interview archives, so his headache was almost certainly what to leave out.
It also means that Bowie is effectively narrating the film himself. He was a willing interviewee, cheerfully introspective, and needed little prodding to philosophize about music, art, religion, pretty much anything. He has nothing to say about rugby league, but that could be about it.
In reality, not everything he says in Moonage Daydream (with the title of his 1971 song) is immune to the charge of pretentiousness. But there are plenty of valuable insights.
Classic movie on TV
Eight years isn’t very long to get a classic image, but Paul King’s film is such a delight – and the brave Peruvian bear won our hearts again earlier this year with his antics alongside our late, beloved queen.
Saturday, BBC1, 7pm
I especially liked his definition of what each day should bring to a human being…that at the end of the day we would be content with ‘taking as much of it as we could and giving it back’. He fit that equation more than most of us in his 69 years.
The film focuses primarily on the 1970s and early 1980s, from Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust years to his worldwide Serious Moonlight tour in 1983.
There are a few stark omissions; we hear him rap about his 1992 marriage to Somali supermodel Iman, but his first marriage to Angie Barnett and his experience of fatherhood are overlooked.
Nor did Morgen wisely select that memorable clip of Bowie, with astonishing foresight, explaining to a skeptical Jeremy Paxman, at the dawn of the Internet age, how the World Wide Web would change the way we live. It pops up often on social media, aptly, and is always a treat.
Perhaps the director (whose credits include documentaries about the Rolling Stones, Kurt Cobain and, somewhat incongruously, the primatologist Jane Goodall) thought it was too familiar. After all, one of the main joys of the archive footage in this film is how little we’ve seen before.
Another delight, for anyone who gets a kick out of studying the interviewer’s art, is watching Russell Harty, Michael Parkinson, Dick Cavett, Valerie Singleton, and Mavis Nicholson try hard — and in some cases fail hard — to get a grip. on this unique, androgynous, driven, formidably gifted creature.
Harty entered at floor level. “Are those men’s shoes, or women’s shoes, or bisexual shoes?” he asks a little desperately. “They’re shoe shoes, silly,” Bowie replies.
The last movie I saw about Bowie was the hopelessly misunderstood 2020 biopic Stardust, which featured a disastrously misguided Johnny Flynn as the man himself, a practice doubly hampered by the Bowie estate’s refusal to allow the use of his music. to allow
Mind you, that implies a sobriety that the film barely shows. Tomorrow is filled with hundreds of wildly diverse images, from crazy, whirling psychedelia to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing on a storm, from surreal animated sequences to the streets of Cold War Berlin. At first it seems unnecessarily distracting and weird, but along the way you realize that it illustrates, quite brilliantly, how Bowie tapped.
The life story of another creative genius is documented by focusing on his most famous composition in Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song. Cohen, just like Bowie happened to die, in 2016. And actually there are other parallels; both men wrote at least as well as they sang, and both had incredibly fertile, restless minds. This excellent film by Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine is much more conventional than Moonage Daydream, but for Cohen fans it is also full of treasures.
I greatly enjoyed the analysis of Hallelujah’s lyrics as “part biblical, part the woman he slept with last night.”
The life story of another creative genius is documented by focusing on his most famous composition in Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song
The film cleverly sheds light on Cohen’s complex personality by following the track’s trajectory, from its outright rejection by the combative head of Columbia Records, Walter Yetnikoff (“Leonard, we know you’re great, we just don’t.” t know if you’re any good, he said), for use in the 2001 film Shrek and its extraordinary triumph in the UK charts in December 2008. Alexandra Burke’s version reached No. 1 that Christmas, with Jeff Buckley’s version at No. 2 and Cohen’s 1984 original at number 36.
It has since become a standard at weddings and funerals, heralding last year at a memorial service in Washington DC for more than 400,000 American victims of the pandemic. So much for Yetnikoff’s verdict.
But hey, that’s showbiz.
Watch out! Jackie Brown is back in town…
Jackie Brown (15, 154 mins)
In from the side (15, 134 min)
Fans of Quentin Tarantino will be delighted to see a re-release of his 1997 crime thriller Jackie Brown for its 25th anniversary, showing as of today in more than 200 cinemas across the country.
And if you really love your Tarantino detail, you may have also noticed the coincidence that Jean-Luc Godard died this week. The great French director had a major influence on Tarantino, who named his production company A Band Apart, after Godard’s 1964 classic Bande à Part.
What Godard in turn thought of Jackie Brown is, as far as I know, undocumented. Anyway, it stands alone in Tarantino’s credits as the only one of his films that didn’t originate in his own head; it is based on the novel Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard. Created as a tribute to the so-called ‘blaxploitation’ films of the 1970s, it stars Pam Grier, a veteran of those films, in the title role (pictured).
She plays a flight attendant who works for the ruthless Los Angeles arms dealer Ordell Robbie (Samuel L Jackson), who uses her job to smuggle large sums of money for him, but ends up scamming him.
Made as a tribute to the so-called ‘blaxploitation’ films of the 1970s, with Pam Grier, a veteran of those films, in the title role (pictured)
The last time I saw Jackie Brown on TV, I must confess that I needed subtitles. Jackson’s dialogues in particular are delivered with such speed that it is not always easy to follow for a British audience.
That service won’t be in theaters, but I’m looking forward to it anyway. It’s a long, sometimes heavy, but compellingly stylish and witty film, with a beautiful soundtrack and a first-rate supporting cast led by Robert De Niro, with Michael Keaton, Bridget Fonda, Robert Forster and, in a blink-and-you’ I will miss it, Danny DeVito.
Another release this week, In From The Side, could hardly be more different. A low-budget debut for writer-director Matt Carter, it centers on a love affair between two players in a gay London rugby club, both of whom have committed relationships with other men.
It’s an intriguing backdrop for a story about infidelity, but it would be better suited for a four-part TV show. The film lasts more than two hours and needs a much earlier end signal.