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Moonage Daydream: When Bowie meets Nietzsche.

Moonage Daydream, the brand new documentary by director Brett Morgen, was showing at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood last Saturday. My first exposure to his work was through Montage Of Heck, his 2015 documentary about Kurt Cobain. Well, folks, Morgen has done it again! This is a truly amazing work of art that doesn't follow the traditional steps of the genre. It is not a biographical narrative, but rather a visual and audio experience comparable to David Bowie's work as an artist. Nietzsche's reference at the beginning of the movie is not a coquetry; the film is chaotic and fragmented. It was a big statement to incorporate the German philosopher right away since Moonage Daydream has a very bold idea at its core: the ego is an illusion. But don't be fooled, this isn't an abstract movie, it's also - in true Nietzschean fashion - a movie that puts sensory experience front and center. This is what great movies do: they force you to think and to feel.

By the end of the documentary, I felt as though I knew less about the subject than I did before. In this case, it is a compliment. Neither is it about David Bowie's life nor is it about discovering the "real" person behind the artist. Instead, Moonage Daydream emphasizes the process of constant metamorphosis and the attempts to dilute the fragile self in the beautiful chaos of creation. In a nutshell, it's about finding meaning in life through art. Nevertheless, the movie could have gone in a completely different direction, like Bohemian Rhapsody:

« I said (To David Bowie’s executor), listen, there’s probably two ways we can go about making this film. We can make it very accessible, sort of a sing along. Really easy peasy, and will probably raise a lot more money. Or I could do it like I think David's work is, a little more off guard, a little more challenging and sort of asking the audience to participate, if you will. And they'll look to me and goes, well, that's your problem. »
- Brett Morgen

In the end, I'm so glad David Bowie's executor didn't try to stop Brett Morgen. I'm also glad that the director didn't try to ease the process for the audience (and for himself - it took him 7 years). Brett Morgen gave us something truer to Bowie than any biopic or classical documentary could. We were given an exigent work that will have us feeling and thinking at the same time. I watched it in Imax, and that was the best way to experience it. It emphasized the importance of sound for Morgen as much as its visuals. During the Q&A at the end, he mentioned that he worked directly from the original stems. By disassembling and rebuilding every song he used in the movie, he was able to create an entirely new piece. The concept of sampling might be helpful as an analogy. When rappers use samples, they use existing material and create something new. It's amazing when it's well done (think Kanye West). As a result, Morgen's Moonage Daydream is truly a work of art that stands on its own. In all this, it is ironic that he used the Academy Award winning sound team from aforementioned Bohemian Rhapsody to do the sound design and mixing (Paul Massey and David G. Marco).

"The whole idea behind the pump from the beginning was to simply do this IMAX music experience to basically take my favorite artists and put them in this environment. But I never dreamed of Bowie in this. This is way beyond my wildest dreams."
- Brett Morgen

As I said, the movie's main point is that the ego is an illusion. However, it's not nihilistic in the sense most people understand it. Moonage Daydream speaks to the complexity of life and the love it deserves. The most common mistake people make when it comes to nihilism is assuming it means hatred for life and truth. Nothing could be more wrong than that. The Nietzschean perspective sees nihilism as an affirmation of life. The goal is to find ways to escape a dominant ideology by questioning established norms and values. The concept of nihilism is really about freedom in this sense. Moonage Daydream embodies that freedom, and shows us that there is only one tangible thing in our lives: art. If the ego is a construction, then the only way to live a full life and give it meaning is to create. It makes Bowie a very contemporary figure, who embodies one of our time's most crucial struggles: identity. The topic is very pregnant throughout Bowie's work and also the movie. Through Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke, and all the other characters he portrayed, Bowie showed the fluidity of self, not only in terms of gender. Rather than reducing ourselves to categories, art shows us a way to reconcile ourselves by exploding the limits we place upon ourselves.

Brett Morgen brought us face-to-face with the same existential issues Bowie dealt with as an artist. As Moonage Daydream invites us to create our own lives, it is a gift.

- Vincent Walter Jacob

« Oh You Pretty Things
Don't you know you're driving your
Mamas and Papas insane
Let me make it plain
You gotta make way for the Homo Superior »
- David Bowie (Oh you pretty things)

"Fellow creators, the creator seeks--those who write new values on new tablets. Companions, the creator seeks, and fellow harvesters; for everything about him is ripe for he harvest. . . . Companions, the creator seeks, and such as know how to whet their sickles. Destroyers they will be called, the despisers of good and evil."
Nietzsche, "Zarathustra's Prologue", Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

Moderator with Brett Morgen - Chinese Theater, Hollywood, CA. By Vincent Walter Jacob

Moderator with Brett Morgen - Chinese Theater, Hollywood, CA. By Vincent Walter Jacob


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