The BRWC Review: David Bowie Is

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC The BRWC Review: David Bowie Is

“First released in 2013, this film takes the audience on a fascinating journey through the exhibition, exploring the stories behind some of the key objects that document Bowie’s artistic career.”

On 14th July cinemas around the UK will be hosting a one night only screening of David Bowie Is, a 2013 retrospective looking at the V&A exhibition of the same name. This film is David Bowie viewed through the lens of the V&A and, as you would expect from the museum, his concept sketches and costume designs feature prominently. The exhibition is designed for people seeking to find Bowie via his personal artefacts.

There are many beautiful finds from the archive – Bowie kept all manner of intriguing items and the film is essential viewing for students of any specialism in the creative arts.

I am disappointed in this film, but it’s my own fault. My disappointment may lie in the fact that I trusted the trailer more than the description. The trailer is stunning. It is also a red herring. However much it promises non-stop thrills, the fact is that this is a museum tour. One where the curators are holding your hand the entire way round. When the curators aren’t chatting at you, random people are telling you what they think. It’s too much.

Bowie David
The film really shines when Bowie speaks for himself, which he does via archive footage, including Michael Apted’s Inspirations (1997). The more immersive sections of the film, including the chance to read his handwritten lyric notes whilst listening to the songs, are a real treat. They resemble the recent Kurt Cobain documentary Montage of Heck (2015), and are indicative of the real experience of the exhibition. Unfortunately these are scarcely used in favour of talking heads with members of the public. It is also a pretty self-congratulatory film on the part of the curators. They seem to be saying “Didn’t we do well?” Yes, you did, but does all that backslapping make for a compelling film? Not so much.

What more can we say about David Bowie? Since his death in January, every media outlet was brimming with passion and insight about his life and the astonishing influence he had on so many people: An outpouring of love and sadness. To see a film where that grief is absent is refreshing. That David Bowie Is could be curated within his own lifetime is testament to what an icon he really was.

The Documentary film of the ground-breaking V&A Exhibition DAVID BOWIE IS (London in 2013), is re-released in Vue cinemas and selected venues across the UK on 14 July

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Esme Betamax is a writer and illustrator. Often found in the Cube Microplex. Favourites include: I ♡ Huckabees, Where the Buffalo Roam, Harold & Maude, Being John Malkovich and In the Shadow of the Moon.


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