Moonage Daydream Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Phantasmagoric Journey Through the Art and Mind of David Bowie

Taking its title from a David Bowie song of the same name originally recorded by his band Arnold Corns then re-recorded for The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Moonage Daydream finds documentarian Brett Morgen escorting viewers on a phantasmagoric journey through the art and mind of David Bowie.

Archival interviews paired with concert performances allow Morgen to present a portrait of an artist unbound by the linear chronology he lived. Early on Bowie as Ziggy sings “Wild Boy from Freecloud” in concert. Interspersed is film footage from a decade later with Let’s Dance era Bowie travelling somewhere in Asia. Time-shifting is an integral aspect of a musician’s life as shown when Bowie, touring in support Earthling in 1997, plays “Space Oddity” which he wrote nearly 30 years earlier.

In between and during musical segments, Bowie can be heard and seen answering questions from interviewers, all of whom trying to understand him. But it’s a presumption he understands himself, as opposed to him just being himself and then expressing that experience into his art, mostly music, but he dabbles in other media as well. It’s clear from the changing tenor of his voice that these clips are taken from different times in his life, yet Morgen picks what he wants and orders them to best tell this story.

Morgen covers many of Bowie’s career highlights through the ’70s and early ’80s. Interesting that at his most popular, it was Bowie’s most unrewarding because he limited himself as an artist by giving the audience what they wanted instead of giving them what he wanted. His meeting Iman, who would become his second wife, altered his approach to work and to life because of how important the relationship was.

The video has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Taken from a variety of formats in a variety of conditions, the image can go from bold, saturated colors to faded hues to black and white. There are objects shot on film that have a sharp focus and aged video that suffers from degradation and exhibit heavy pixelation.

The audio is available in Dolby Atmos that defaults down to Dolby TrueHD 7.1. The music is crisp and vibrant, swelling in the surrounds and enveloping the viewer. The track has a wide dynamic range and different instruments can be heard in the arrangements. There also moments of degradation, again due to the source limitations.

The director-approved special features are:

  • Commentary by writer, director, editor, producer Brett Morgen who takes viewers into his process of making this film, even though he promised himself he wouldn’t to allow “the audience to project and participate in its construction.”
  • Q&A at the TCL Chinese Theatre (23 min) – After an introduction by Jack Black; Morgen; filmmaker Mark Romanek, who directed two of his music videos; and longtime David Bowie pianist Mike Garson on the final night of the film’s engagement at the theatre.
  • Moonage Soundscapes (27 min) – Morgen and rerecording mixers David Giammarco and Paul Massey talk working on the film. This is a deep dive for those intrigued by technical audio aspects.
  • “Rock ‘N’ Roll With Me (Live)” 1974 (5 min) – Played in Buffalo, visuals are poor, but the music sounds clear.
  • Trailer

Follow White Rabbit Brett Morgen into the audiovisual wonderland that is Moonage Daydream. It’s highly recommended for fans of David Bowie who want to learn about the man behind the music and persona. It is also an impressive cinematic experience regardless of one’s knowledge about Bowie. It’s a landmark film against which all music/artist documentaries will be judged. Criterion’s high-definition Blu-ray captures the visual and audio beauty that was present during the theatrical presentation.

Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site. "I'm making this up as I go" - Indiana Jones

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