Maverick documentarian Brett Morgen has been granted access to thousands of hours of rare, uncirculated performance footage of the legendary icon, David Bowie. He has been working on a top-secret documentary that may see a release at Sundance in January.
Morgen – who has already made one of the most intimate and groundbreaking rock and roll documentaries of the last ten years with Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck – has been at work on the project for four years. A source (per Variety) close to the production mysteriously describes it as “neither documentary nor biography, but an immersive cinematic experience.” This genre-challenging description suits the enigmatic nature of the film’s subject, as Bowie was never one to be tied down by convention.
A lot of the footage is apparently from live performances, and Morgen is eyeing an IMAX release. He is doing a lot of the heavy lifting for this project himself, taking on editing, writing and producing duties in addition to directing. He is joined by Tony Visconti, Bowie’s long-time music producer, who is also serving as the music producer for the film. In addition, the Oscar-winning sound team behind Bohemian Rhapsody will be responsible for sound design and mixing.
Perhaps what is most encouraging for fans of the Thin White Duke is the approval of his estate. Bowie’s widow, the model Iman, recently stated that the family is firmly against authorising a Rocketman-style biopic about Bowie’s life. “It’s always a no. We always ask each other, ‘Would he do it?’ He wouldn’t.”
This is perhaps best demonstrated by the actions taken by Bowie when he was still alive, with Todd Hayne’s 1998 film Velvet Goldmine being clearly based around a Bowie-like figure, and named for one of his songs, but for which Bowie refused to license his music. Fortunately for those wanting to see more of Bowie though, the family have approved this project.
Morgen the Maverick
The film is Morgen’s first major feature since winning two primetime Emmy Awards for his work on the National Geographic documentary, Jane, about the life of primatologist Jane Goodall. Prior to that he’s also covered Cobain and colourful, cocaine-trafficking Hollywood producer Robert Evans, in The Kid Stays in the Picture. With this kind of impressive resume, it’s clear why the family were comfortable with putting part of Bowie’s considerable legacy in his hands.
Unlike another recent effort (the rightfully admonished Starman) which tried and failed to capture the magical, alluring enigma that was David Bowie (kind of hard to do when you’re working without any of his iconic music), this new project should give longtime fans hope that we’re going to see Bowie properly represented at the multiplex. And will hopefully introduce a new generation to his stellar, dynamic musical stylings.
This film will be reviewed by FIB when it is released.
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