The film “Stardust,” a David Bowie “origin story” of types that was slated to premiere on the Tribeca Film Festival on Friday, raises a number of intriguing questions:
Can a film a couple of actually well-known individual work if the actor taking part in that individual doesn’t actually seem like him?
Can a film a couple of well-known musician work if it doesn’t really embrace any of the music that made them well-known?
And can a film get to some sort of reality about its topic if it begins with the disclaimer, “What follows is (mostly) fiction?”
For higher and for worse, “Stardust” grapples with these points because it follows a 24-year-old Bowie on a promotional tour by means of the United States in 1971, accompanied by a long-suffering Mercury Records publicist named Ron Oberman. (With Tribeca postponed indefinitely, the movie had a personal “virtual premiere” for patrons and press on this week.)
Johnny Flynn performs Bowie, Marc Maron performs Oberman, and the purpose of director and cowriter Gabriel Range’s movie is to hint the seeds of Bowie’s breakthrough character, Ziggy Stardust, on a desultory tour of the States. The publicist looked for any rock journalists or radio stations who could be , and the would-be star tried to determine learn how to current himself with out alienating or boring individuals.
It’s a coming-of-age story, you may say, besides that the man who comes of age begins as a shy British singer and finally ends up as a rock star area alien.
Did it actually occur this manner? Of course it did, and naturally it didn’t. The Ziggy Stardust character got here from a mess of sources – Anthony Newley, British rockabilly star Vince Taylor, hapless American nation singer the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, Japanese theater and design, Andy Warhol’s theories of plastic superstardom – that had been little question percolating in Bowie’s thoughts within the early 1970s. To place all of them within the context of 1 quick street journey with a bedraggled publicist is terribly handy and never terribly persuasive, although it’s laborious to argue with its utility as a dramatic gadget.
Then once more, I come on the movie from a definite perspective. In my days as a rock ‘n’ roll journalist, I noticed Bowie in live performance typically and crossed paths and had conversations with him various occasions. I additionally knew Ron Oberman each on enterprise and private phrases for a few years, beginning a couple of years after the occasions depicted in “Stardust.”
So once I say I by no means purchased Johnny Flynn as Bowie or Marc Maron as Oberman, that’s not essentially a grievance that others may have. Flynn does a superb job with Bowie’s voice, each when he’s talking and singing, and he’s obtained Bowie’s hair circa 1971, Bowie’s tooth (courtesy of prosthetics) and Bowie’s wardrobe. But he’s by no means actually seems to be like Bowie to a convincing diploma, which will get in the way in which of the fervor with which he throws himself into the position.
(I gained’t harp on the diploma to which Maron doesn’t look like Oberman, since that’s irrelevant to the overwhelming majority of people that’ll see the film, besides to say that the actor is precisely twice as previous as Oberman was when he took Bowie on the street, 56 v. 28, and that within the couple of many years I knew him, Ron was by no means as flustered or disorganized as he’s within the movie.)
The matter of music is one other difficult space for “Stardust,” which was made with out the rights to make use of Bowie’s songs. It’s potential to succeed underneath these phrases: John Ridley made a terrific film about Jimi Hendrix, 2013’s “All Is by My Side,” that solely confirmed the guitarist taking part in cowl variations of different individuals’s songs, whereas Todd Haynes fictionalized the Bowie/Iggy Pop story in “Velvet Goldmine” by enlisting present musicians to write down new Bowie-style songs.
“Stardust” makes use of each of these methods, with Flynn performing some cowl songs that Bowie did carry out, and in addition doing new songs that should sound like previous ones. But when you see Bowie choose up a guitar on a…
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