David Bowie: Sound and Vision

This Brit icon was born on January 8th and died on January 10th so this second week of the month is a de-facto David Bowie Week. The London Short Film Festival 2017 remembered the death of the rock legend with this tribute movie night at Stratford Picturehouse where fans and film-lovers alike were treated to rarely seen work from the Bowie archives and other decades old short film gems he featured in. Bowie was, of course, an actor of sorts before he had his big break as a musician. And a pretty decent one.

One of these films The Image is an edgy horror about an artist who paints a portrait of a Bowie-like young man only to find moments later a twenty year old Bowie suddenly appearing at his window and pulling the same face. Although this scratchy black and white 16mm short is a silent piece and in places the editing a little clunky, Bowie fans will delight in seeing their hero playing the part of this pale, spectre-like intruder with murderous intentions. Originally, this film was first screened during the intermissions between X-rated sex films.

 In Jazzin’ For Blue Jean ‘The Thin White Duke’ again takes the starring role as Vic, a man smitten with a young woman. He tries to impress her by taking her to a performance by rock musician Screamin’ Lord Byron ( also played by Bowie) not before having a word in his ear about helping him show off to her. Instead the debauched musician comes to their table and swans off with her leaving the other Bowie both empty-handed and hearted. It’s a believable performance by Bowie. Although his acting gestures are slightly over-effected in places he compares well with other celebrities who have tried the music to acting transition.

 The 2003 film Reality is in actuality not that at all. It’s very abstract as you’d probably expect from director Seven Lippman who has also made music videos for the equally experimental Laurie Anderson. It features music videos and Bowie interviewing himself and giving a mixture of straight answers and abstract mumblings. The phrase ‘Ketchup or mustard? pops up out of nowhere. The disparate topics covered include art and East End churches.

Also there’s a documentary about his biggest hit and album Let’s Dance and the political and racial themes behind his decision to produce the video in Australia with Aborigine actors in lead roles. You hear the accounts of locals stunned that a superstar was in their midst as well as the whole community being equally stunned to see two Aborigines taking the dance floor in a ‘redneck’ style joint where they were not very welcome.

 


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Eddie Saint-Jean

Eddie Saint-Jean is an arts reviewer with a background in art theory, film and theatre.

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