Cannes 2022: ‘Moonage Daydream’ is a Mind-Expanding Experience
by Alex Billington
May 25, 2022
There’s only one David Bowie – no one else has ever been like him, no one will ever be like him again. A one-of-a-kind artist, creator, human (maybe? maybe not?), lover, dreamer, musician. How do you tell his story? Is it even possible? Probably not. It’s better to not even try – there is so much about him that can’t be explained, that can’t be described in words. Moonage Daydream is a documentary about David Bowie, but it’s not really a biopic, and it’s not really a documentary. Much like Bowie himself, it’s a one-of-a-kind cinematic experience that will blow you away. It’s a profound experience – one of the most moving viewings I’ve had at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. Emerging from the cinema it’s like entering a whole new world, with a new outlook on life and fresh perspective. It’s a mind-melting, cosmically existential journey through Bowie’s existence & endlessly wise mind. The epitome of a cinematic experience in every way. Amazing.
Moonage Daydream is written and directed and edited by the very talented American doc filmmaker Brett Morgen, who has already blown us away with outstanding docs like Jane (about Jane Goodall) and Cobain: Montage of Heck previously. When he puts together a film, it’s not just a bunch of clips edited together, it’s an experience. Morgen works meticulously to craft the sound design and the editing and the visuals in order to make sure the documentary is a full on cinematic spectacle, something that its immersive and pulls you deep into its story. He’s outdone himself with Moonage Daydream, with dazzling editing and hallucinogenic visuals. He uses various movie clips and bits of footage to reference what Bowie is talking about in certain scenes, rather than just showing Bowie himself over & over. And he was lucky to get his hands on the entire archive of Bowie footage from his estate, meaning there’s so much edited into this it’s almost overwhelming.
Some critics seem to be expecting something this film isn’t, and yes, I also expected a more straightforward biopic doc as well. But it’s not really meant to be “the life story of David Bowie”, and it’s not really going to provide any insight into Bowie and what made him the person he was. That’s not the point of this one, and it’s better to know that going in. The film is Bowie expressing himself again, through space and time and cinema, to teach us about how to truly thrive and how to exist as human beings. He is so exceptionally wise and wonderful. And this film feels like him speaking out again, letting his voice and his life reach out to each and every one of us and inspire us all over again. It’s a path to how to truly live free and love life, and to find the joy in every single day. There are no new interviews or talking heads or anything because it doesn’t need them – Bowie’s words from archival footage are more than enough to take us on this journey through his life.
In all honesty – I never really understood Bowie before. I never adored his music or art, but all that changes now. Now I get it. Now I understand him. Now I have a better sense of who he was and what he wanted to show us, to share with us from his mind. Like most people, he evolved over time. He went from something to something else all the time, kept changing and growing, kept developing and learning. But he always stayed true to the belief that genuine freedom of personal expression was (and is) the most important in art. I love that the film shows this – with intriguing statements where he admits later in life that he no longer believes in what he did when he was younger. That journey of a man is part of the experience, and part of growing as a human being throughout one’s life. We get to witness this as audience members swept away on this journey in Moonage Daydream, but we also get to feel it watching him perform on stage and speak out.
While you may not learn more about why David Bowie was such a rarity or how he was so talented or why he was the way he was, that doesn’t take away from the seriously mind-expanding vibes of this extraordinary documentary. Yeah I was hoping for a bit more about his children and how he honed his skills as a musician, but those are stories for another time. After watching this film, there’s so much from Bowie that will likely change you, that will connect with you deep down and possibly even reshape your life from that point on. That’s the power of truly great cinema. And that’s also the power of Bowie himself. It’s not about learning who he is, it’s about learning from him. It’s about being inspired by his choices in life, by his boundless wisdom, by his encouragement to live fully and dream big no matter your circumstances. It’s about being inspired by the beauty of life, by the things that surrounds us. He discusses at one point how he surrounded himself with everything besides music to inspire his creativity; its the kind of life we should all aspire to live.