Just the notion of seeing Brett Morgen’s film about David Bowie—Moonage Daydream, which premiered last night at Cannes—made me nervous. I’d read variously that the film was a biopic, an “experiential odyssey” about Bowie’s life, an “immersive” experience. And like millions of other people of all kinds all over the world, I had my own view on Bowie—lots and lots of them, actually. The notion of seeing another person trying to make their own kind of art out of Bowie’s preposterous, unbelievable, and inspirational life, frankly, bored me and terrified me at the same time; especially after having listened to him for decades and having watched him in films and seen him live in concert and having read perhaps too much about him and his work.
About 35 seconds into the actual film, though, I left those thoughts and feelings far behind, gripped my armrests, and never really let go: Moonage Daydream—the first film to be officially sanctioned by Bowie’s estate and the result of five years of painstaking research, writing, editing, sound mixing, and deep dive immersion into the entirety of Bowie’s archive of film, music, art, and fashion (some five million assets)—is astounding, bombastic, groundbreaking, electrifying, and among the best films about any artist or musician I’ve ever seen. Writer-director-producer-editor Morgen has taken those five million assets and assembled from them a mesmerizing collage of sound and vision that will entrance and enrich any Bowie fan and, presumably, make new fans of anyone lucky enough to have this be their first real encounter with his world.