Moonage Daydream Five stars Now in IMAX, nationwide from Friday; Cert 15A
Five years. That was the space between Brett Morgen flatlining in an emergency room following a heart attack, and Brett Morgen jiving down the red carpet at Cannes back in May to ‘Let’s Dance’.
Five years of sifting through a gigantic archive of footage and recordings provided to the documentarian by the official estate of David Bowie, in order to seek out and distil his essence.
Morgen had set himself quite a task in wanting to memorialise the late great rock deity and cultural icon through film. There was the scale of the project, the numberless hours and days of material to sort through.
But there was also the weight of expectation about a star whose passing swelled an already ubiquitous cult of personality.
People still half-joke that ever since that sad day in January 2016, the world has subsequently gone to hell in a handbasket, as if Bowie was some kind of universe-steadying singularity.
Morgen embraces such hyperbole – because that was simply the language that attached to Bowie.
As far back as 2007, the US filmmaker has sought to do something about Bowie, who died in January 2016.
With his hugely praised Kurt Cobain portrait Montage of Heck (2015), Morgen secured his name as an unorthodox chronicler of rock life – and permission was granted by the Bowie estate, on the provision that Morgen follow the singer’s vision without deviating.
Bowie’s fierce artistic sensibility held sway from beyond the grave.
The archive Morgen was given access to was gigantic, as Bowie himself had been constantly adding to it in his later years.
The film-maker’s work-life balance suffered during the trawl, and became dangerously lopsided. His ensuing heart attack saw him flatline for three minutes and end up in a coma.
During recovery, the wisdom Morgen had encountered in the spoken-word recordings reverberated in his head. Life, Bowie spoke to him, was not so much about how much time we have on this earth, but what we do with that time.
An extraordinary person would require an extraordinary film – but Moonage Daydream still oversteps your expectations about what a rock doc should look and sound like.
This is less a rockumentary than a kaleidoscopic cinema cathedral; less a biographical portrait than a mile-high technicolour mural.
There is little in the way of attempts to explain. Morgen eschews talking heads, rock historians and onlookers.
Only Bowie himself narrates this sewn-together tapestry of footage (much of it never seen before) and juxtapositions.
The effect is a mesmerising and elliptical study of the patterns and trace energies that used to follow him restlessly across the albums, the get-ups, the stage and screen appearances. And Bowie – in his own words, his ruminations fresh and spry – makes for inspired voiceover narration.
Morgen should be commended for the holistic collage he assembles about someone who continually defied easy categorisation. Music journalism can seem at pains to put Bowie into a series of phases – Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, the Berlin years, the lamentable Tin Machine project – but David Bowie was compelled by something to never sit still.
Even his death – two days after the release of his Blackstar album – seemed to be an artistic flourish in itself, something almost ‘performed’ for the world on his own mischievous terms.
Morgen has so much imagery, context and internal reflection to condense into a mere 140 minutes that Bowie’s final bow is briefly but poignantly charted. Instead, we’re intermittently zapped to the cosmos where planets and moonscapes exert suggestive gravitational influences.
A ‘serious’ documentary would run away from the narrative that Bowie’s passing was just another of his transitions.
As images glide and explode, long-time Bowie producer Tony Visconti, and Oscar-winning sound engineer Paul Massey contribute to an astonishing sonic design.
At a time when omniplexes are facing financial restructuring, there is something timely about this big-screen experience that manages to find structure and substance between its array of brilliant crescendos.
Bowie once sang about waiting for the gift of sound and vision. The wait is over.
Róise & Frank
In cinemas; Cert PG
What if our deceased loved ones came back as household pets? Well, that’s sort of what happens in this delightful Irish-language dramedy about a grieving widow who believes her hurling obsessed other half has returned as a shaggy mutt.
Róise (the excellent Bríd Ní Neachtain) is struggling to adapt to a life without her beloved Frank. Her GP son Alan (Cillian O’Gairbhi) is concerned – so, too, is nosy neighbour Donncha (Lorcan Cranitch) who wonders if it’s time for Róise to pick herself up and move on with life.
Then, one day, a stray lurcher arrives on her Waterford doorstep and Róise is convinced that the curious canine with the wistful eyes isn’t just some runaway, but instead, her reincarnated husband.
Heck, the dog is mad about hurling and eventually even the locals come around to the idea that Frank is back in action.
It’s a quirky tale, but writers and directors Peter Murphy and Rachael Moriarty run a steady ship, and this clever, thoughtful film employs small-town wit and playful absurdity to explore the all-too familiar course of grief, longing and, ultimately, acceptance. Yep, the darn thing turned me to mush. Irresistible.
Ticket to Paradise
In cinemas; Cert 12A
You could make a drinking game out of Ticket to Paradise. Take a shot every time the divorced parents bicker. Down another whenever our grumpy protagonists unite to sabotage their kid’s wedding. Finish the bottle as soon as they make googly eyes at one another.
Is Ticket to Paradise the most predictable comedy of 2022? Sort of. Does that make it impossible to side with? Not quite.
David (George Clooney) and Georgia (Julia Roberts) cannot stand one another. They used to be married but it didn’t work out – and now they’re afraid that daughter Lily (Kaitlyn Dever) is about to follow in their footsteps. An aspiring lawyer, Lily flew to Bali after college, and now plans to marry a boy she just met, which means mum and dad will... oh, you know how it goes.
Directed and co-written by Ol Parker, this well-mannered and undeniably well-intentioned rom-com could do with some actual jokes, but hey, it’s Gorgeous George and Joyful Julia. Between them, their star wattage could power an entire village, and our charismatic leads ensure a pleasant – if entirely unremarkable – experience. Plus, it’s nice to look at. In a word? Grand. Chris Wasser
IFI & selected cinemas; Cert 16
Owen Kline is best known as the young boy in The Squid and the Whale (2005). Now aged 30, he makes his feature directorial debut with a cynical coming-of-age saga centred on Kline’s other great passion – underground comic book art.
Eighteen-year-old Robert (Daniel Zolghadri) is caught breaking into the studio of his late art mentor.
He ends up getting some interpreting work with his defence counsel. There, he comes into contact with client Wallace (a brilliantly irate Matthew Maher), a former comic art colourist. Keen to get ahead in the comic industry, Robert looks to befriend Wallace.
So much about Funny Pages speaks to that pre-adult age where we’ve to cock-up in order to learn life’s lessons.
This manifests itself in Robert’s placating of the unhinged Wallace, his flagrant disrespect for his parents (Maria Dizzia and Josh Pais) and the extra dingy basement lodgings he takes up.
Grubby, wickedly funny and featuring fabulously odd-looking characters, Kline’s debut taps out a little too abruptly, his screenplay depriving us of a tangible conclusion. Hilary White