Stardust

Ziggy Stardust is David Bowie’s alter ego for his 1972 album of the same name and subsequent tour, a fictional androgynous bisexual rock star alien sent to Earth as a saviour of sorts before an impending apocalyptic disaster. Singing about politics, sex, drugs, and the superficiality of rock and roll, Ziggy easily seduced everyone he met, and by the end of the album, had died a victim of his own fame. The Ziggy Stardust album, classified as glam rock and proto-punk, a loose concept album I suppose, maybe even teetering on rock opera, though not easily classified period, is now considered to be one of the greatest albums of all time, important and influential to the glam rock genre. But where on Earth did a character like Ziggy Stardust come from?

Stardust provides both the long and the short answer. Succinctly: America. More generally, Stardust tags along on David Bowie’s first trip to the U.S. in 1971, a promotional tour that failed pretty spectacularly (can you even imagine anyone not recognizing Bowie’s star power?) but did hook him up with Ron Oberman (Marc Maron) who would prove to be instrumental in introducing him to some key American influences. In 1971, Oberman was seemingly the only American with any confidence in Bowie, but without a budget, and the biggest date on their tour being a vacuum sales conferences, it wasn’t a lot to work with. Bowie didn’t make it big on that trip, but he did see the people and the places that would inspire him to create Ziggy Stardust, and to treat music as merely the mask while he himself was the message. Bowie wasn’t just ahead of his time but beyond time itself.

It would obviously be very difficult to capture the lightning but that was David Bowie and expect him to shine as bright while confined to a bottle. However, the extent to which director Gabriel Range and company have failed here is pretty extravagant. Johnny Flynn is a fine actor and perhaps not the worst of casting options, but he’s no Bowie, and I could never see him as such, not for even one fleeting moment. Reduced to a few eccentric and deeply affected mannerisms, they’ve turned David Bowie from visionary into mimic. It’s disastrous. Of course, it was never going to work, not without a single Bowie song, having pissed off the family and been refused to license his actual work. Range thinks he can get around it by setting the film on a tour during which Bowie wasn’t allowed to play music after failing to obtain a proper work visa. But as I stated above, that tour was a total failure, and so too is this movie. I wouldn’t even wish it on a conference room full of vacuum salespeople rowdy on a modest open bar.

Stardust, if you’re a diehard Bowie completist, is in theaters and digital and on-demand platforms on November 27.

17 thoughts on “Stardust

    1. rdfranciswriter

      Yeah. This sounds like Stoned (about Brian Jones) and Jimi: All Is By My Side. Let’s hope the efforts to make an Iggy flick stay failed and buried.

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  1. Pingback: Stardust – Kisafilms.com

  2. ninvoid99

    Bowie fans are not going to see this. They destroyed the trailer when it came out. I’m a fucking die-hard Bowie fan and I refuse to see this. Yes, I know Jena is in the film as Angela Bowie but that’s not good enough. The fact that the film was made against the wishes of his family and Duncan Jones’ refusal to allow the filmmakers to use his father’s music is proof of its failure. Plus, having read other reviews. Some of the dramatic liberties it took on the film are horrendous. First off, Bowie’s first trip to America mainly had him to go to New York City where he meets Andy Warhol and Lou Reed. Second of all, he had a fear of heights and didn’t go on a plane until the late 70s. He mainly traveled by boat from one continent to another. Another thing that I read that pissed me off is how they treated Bowie’s half-brother Terry in the film as I think this was the reason why Duncan Jones and Iman were appalled by the film. I can’t say I don’t blame them as they probably went to Bowie’s relatives in Britain and confirmed all of their suspicions. Fuck these people and fuck this film. Bowie deserved better.

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      1. rdfranciswriter

        You MUST have the artist’s music in the film, not knockoffs. Obviously, no one learned from Larry Buchanan’s missteps with Down On Us and its faux Hendrix, Joplin, and Doors tunes. And the mess that was CBGB’s — even with Alan Rickman as Hilly Kristal — just wow.

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      2. ninvoid99

        Oh, I heard about that CBGB’s movie. That was made by those assholes who tried to make the movie about Gregg Allman and ended up killing a crew member because of their lack of safety issues.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. rdfranciswriter

        Yes. That’s right. The same crew. I want to say it was the wife of Joey Ramone (?) that said “no way” and wouldn’t allow the Ramones’ music to be used.

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