David Bowie Is Film Review

Film Review by Jarred Tito
David Bowie Is

The Premise
David Bowie Is, is an immersive cinematic tour of the ground-breaking exhibition, created by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (V&A). The exhibition was the fastest selling in the V&A’s history, and features a remarkable collection of photographs, stage costumes, and other rare possessions from the David Bowie Archive.  The film takes the audience on an extraordinary journey through David Bowie’s creative headspace: with special guests including legendary Japanese fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto; Pulp front-man Jarvis Cocker; and other collaborators, to explore the stories behind some of the key objects that document Bowie’s artistic career. V&A’s David Bowie is exhibition presents a once in a lifetime opportunity to engage with David Bowie’s pioneering and astonishing influence on fashion, art, music, and modern culture. 

The Review
‘This is a movie by the fans for the fans’, and it is also a movie that should be high on the priority list of things to do for any Bowie follower, musical enthusiast or historian. ‘David Bowie Is’ is actually a voyeuristic walk through the ‘Bowie Is’ installation at the famous V and A Museum in London that actually leaves you with a very thorough and memorable virtual experience of the whole exhibition. In fact the movie possibly gives you a better taste of the exhibition than what you may experience had you have taken the tour yourself… in the same way that television coverage of a sports match might get you closer to the action than if you were at the stadium.

The film had me engaged from the beginning to the end with all sorts of Bowie related nostalgia and personal works created and stored by the man himself from as far back as his early childhood. There are all sorts of Bowie works including early drawings and sketches, to penned lyrics from classic songs which are immortalized in the minds of generations of fans.

I was quite impressed at the many facets and dimensions of Bowie. In one way we see that he was quite simplistic with his approach to song writing for example. When we see his early scribbling’s of classic songs like ‘Rock n’ Roll Suicide’. Wow! Was my reaction when I saw the lyrics written out in messy handwriting with words crossed out and add ins plastered over the top. It actually inspires me to see it and reminded me of when I was a youngster stringing lyrics together on refill paper. He’s human after all.

One of the highlights of the movie for me was the very moving address, to a live audience, from Kansai Yamamoto who was one of the designers responsible for Bowies more outrageous costumes. His speech was very natural and spontaneous which moved the audience to laughter and tears.

I must confess that initially I was expecting an appearance from Davie Bowie himself but then I came to terms with the reality that this is not a documentary as such but a tour. A tour that actually takes you into the heart and mind of Bowie in a way that an interview may never quite achieve. We of course saw archive clips of Bowie throughout the many faces of his vast career which included, Ziggy Stardust, Major Tom, the Thin White Duke to name a few which satisfied my needs as a fan. So if you are wanting an appearance the film does satisfy that need. That being said, I wouldn’t complain if he did take the stage at the V & A.

The Verdict
I would be very disappointed if I didn’t get to see this film and am grateful that I did. Sure it’s not the same as seeing the exhibition in London or Paris but as I said earlier this film has its merits which may supersede aspects of the V & A instillation such as the interviews from the live guests.  On a personal note, from a fan, I absolutely loved it. Yes ‘David Bowie Is’ is a must. 

The Trailer

The Info

Film  Releases: 21st May 2015
Rating: PG – Contains coarse language, sexual references and drug references
Duration: 99 minutes 
Genre:  Documentary