Moonage Daydream (15)


I’ve used this line before, but one of David Bowie's great gifts was spotting trends before anyone else, a facility best expressed in his taking leave of us in January 2016.

He was already a revered and beloved figure but in the six and a half years since, that provocative gender-bending cross-dressing cut-up interpretive dance mime avant-garde poseur, has become a cosy totem of remembrance for better, happier times. There is, I think, a huge demand for a big, extravagant celebration of his life and music. This is not that film.

Morgen wants to give us Bowie the tortured artist. Just as in his previous film Cobain: Montage of Heck, the musician is portrayed in a dense, frenetic collage of sound and vision. It’s broadly chronological, but constantly flitting back and forth across its thousand points of light: concert footage, interviews, film clips. Bowie provides the narration, a steady stream of pained self-analysis. It begins with a quote on the subject of Nietzsche. Pretentious? Oui; but it wouldn't be much of a David Bowie film if it wasn't.

The through line is straightforward. The young 70's Bowie assumed a plethora of personas as a cover for his own uncertainty about who he was. The last of these personas was mid-80s arena rock star Bowie, mainstream sell-out Bowie that would ultimately give him the least satisfaction. But then he fell in love, found contentment, and largely stopped making great music. There is nothing new here, though perhaps the film makes explicit what the emotional cost of all this was, the fierceness of the demons that he had to overcome.

The problem is that the high intensity, visual assault gets a bit wearing quite quickly, and the film does go on rather a long time. The casual fan may find it a bit boring even. Given unprecedented access by the Bowie estate, Morgen spent five years working through his archives and it seems a bit of everything has been poured into this great tumble drier of montage.

All the non-Bowie stuff is fantastically unoriginal and yawnsome: bits of Kubrick, 50s B movies, German impressionism, Bunuel and, to nobody’s surprise, those same old scenes from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. It's 95 years old, but still the favoured lazy visual shorthand for antiquated dystopia.

Hackney Gazette: David Bowie in Moonage Daydream directed by Brett MorgenDavid Bowie in Moonage Daydream directed by Brett Morgen (Image: 2022 Starman Productions)

Directed by Brett Morgen. Starring David Bowie. In Imax cinemas September 16, other cinemas September 23. Running time: 135 mins.

Hackney Gazette: Strawberry MansionStrawberry Mansion (Image: Bulldog Film Distribution)

Strawberry Mansion (12A)


In the bizarre, surreal future of Strawberry Mansion, our dreams are audited by the taxman.

Preble (Audley) arrives at a remote country house to audit an old lady, Bella (Fuller) who hasn’t filed a return for years and has all her dreams stored up on videotapes. As he starts to go through her dream worlds, he finds that they contain a message and a warning for him.

Writer/directors Birney and Audley call it a $20 million fantasy made on an indie budget. It’s a nice premise that suggests creative debts to Gilliam, Gondry, and Svankmajer, among others, all delivered with a make do and mend visual style that simply suggests debt.

A range of techniques - effects practical and computer generated; animation hand drawn and stop motion – are employed, with a range of results. Partly because it includes lots of talking animals or humans with animal heads, it often resembles some strange, forgotten children’s film from an alternate reality. Still, there is something quite endearing about its chintzy, chintzy quirkiness, and perhaps it is destined to build a cult following, though quite a select one.

Directed by Albert Birney and Kentucker Audley. Starring Penny Fuller, Kentucker Audley, Grace Glowicki, Linas Phillips, Constance Shulman and Reed Birney. In cinemas and on demand. Running time: 91 mins.

Hackney Gazette: Clerks IIIClerks III (Image: Lionsgate Films)

Clerks III (15)


Nearly 30 years on from the original Clerks, Kevin Smith drops in on Dante, (Halloran) Randall, (Anderson) and the rest of the original cast to see how they're getting on. It turns out, not so well. They’re still working at the same convenience store they’ve been stuck in for the last three decades and Randall is about to survive a heart attack that forces both of them to reevaluate their priorities and lives.

III is an only fans efforts really, and you’ll need to feel indulgent towards it. Where Clerks II was a confident and assured return, this struggles to rekindle the old magic. It’s hampered by the limited acting abilities of most of the lead actors. Halloran’s Dante has become a Syd Little-type straight man, and the editing exposes him by repeatedly cutting to him for strained reaction shots.

There are laughs to be had, but the meta plot that has them making a film about their lives, just like the original Clerks, is a bit of a dead end. But Smith can still shape a cutting pop culture observation, like the description of the “grumpy, Gran Torino Luke Skywalker of Last Jedi.”

Directed by Kevin Smith. Starring Brian Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Trevor Fehrman, Jason Mewes, Jennifer Schwalbach, Kevin Smith and Rosario Dawson. Running time: 100 mins.

Hackney Gazette: Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith in Clerks IIIJason Mewes and Kevin Smith in Clerks III (Image: Lionsgate Films)

Got to for a review of CultFilms Blu-ray release of Antonioni’s Identification of a Woman.