Directed by Hamish Hamilton
David Bowie has for decades been a well regarded figure of art, design, creativity and intrigue, always redefining his image (from Ziggy Stardust to the Thin White Duke) and his musical and personal style to reinvent who we think he is, while consistently being a strong influence on not only almost every musician working today, but on contemporary culture and art as well. Bowie is one of the most pioneering artists of our time. Celebrating his immense body of work in music, movies, fashion and design, The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) of London has curated the largest collection of Bowie artifacts to ever be seen in one place, over 300 pieces that exhibit his creative processes, collaborations with fashion designers and of course, his music.
If you were lucky enough to see the aptly titled David Bowie Is exhibit in Toronto last autumn, then you got to immerse yourself in a massive and expansive multimedia exhibit that felt less like a museum and more like an experience. If you so desired, you could have purchased the companion book David Bowie Is Inside, which beautifully displays the art from the exhibit. And now, if you completely missed the exhibit, or want to experience it again, a film has been released by the V&A to commemorate this impressive collection. But since the movie doesn’t add anything new to the experience of the exhibit, what exactly is the point?
DAVID BOWIE IS, the film that is, takes viewers on a journey through the exhibit, starting at the beginning of Bowie’s life, through the different areas that explore his tastes in literature and fashion and everything else. Adding in clips from live performances, interviews and music videos, we get a small glimpse of what the exhibit entails. Throughout the film, we get snippets of lectures from the exhibit’s curators, and those who Bowie has influenced (like Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, who unabashedly interjects his own song lyrics into his presentation) and close collaborator, Kansai Yamamoto, who created many of Bowie’s iconic wardrobe pieces.
However, if you have seen the exhibit, or happen to know a little about this amazing artist, there isn’t exactly much to be learned from this film. This “documentary” doesn’t seem to be anything more than a promotional video for the exhibit itself, perhaps to up ticket sales and pique the interest of potential visitors. It is a tiny glimpse into what the actual exhibit offers visitors, but really not much else. There is no new information shared nor is there any explanation of how the V&A acquired their pieces, or any mention of Bowie’s involvement with the exhibit.
This lengthy advertisement (I just can’t call it a ‘documentary’) does come at a convenient time however; Chicago has announced that September 23rd will be David Bowie Day, as they welcome the exhibit into the city. If you didn’t get a chance to see it in Toronto, you’d better try and get down to the windy city before it heads back to Europe for an indefinite time. Making the trek down to check out the exhibit yourself will be much more worth your time than sitting through this watered down version of it.