Dir: D A Pennebaker | Musical Biopic | US | 90min
July the 3rd, 1973 was Ziggy Stardust’s last night on planet Earth. It took place in the Hammersmith Odeon where Bowie as Ziggy seared his indelible persona into the public consciousness for the final time. The mesmerised audience projected their wildest fantasies onto the psychedelic troubadour, and the event was captured for all to remember in D A Pennebaker’s intimate cinema vérité concert film.
This is a first hand experience, close up and personal, and one of most inventive concert films ever made. Bowie, an otherworldly legend in the making, chats mundanely to his mates Ringo Star and Marc Bolan in the privacy of a down to earth dressing room. An ordinary bloke takes off his trousers and is then transformed into a lithe and shimmering chameleon sensuously girating to the rhythms of his magical music. Pennebaker’s grainy portrait communicates the casual switch between the actor and the ordinary man. While Bowie is full of gamine grace, guitarist Mick Ronson (who, like Bowie, was to die of liver cancer at the much earlier age of 46) takes himself a tad too seriously appearing to be grimacing in pain, his jutting chin and thrusting pelvis throbbing down at the camera. There are no guts or glory behind the scenes, just ‘business as usual’ as the tight performance schedule neatly dovetails into the splendour of the stage appearance where a sweaty clutch of febrile females strew their adulations at the feet of their sexually ambivalent superstar .
Mesmerisingly bold and beguiling, Bowie still seems endearingly vulnerable at a time where his creative juices were flowing and impressively diverse. As he sashays seamlessly through his songs – from Suffragette City, Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud and Rock N’ Roll Suicide, All the Young Dudes to Oh! You Pretty Things, he fires on all cylinders still on an upward flight to the height of his powers, where things would grow more intriguing and innovative for the following three decades. This concert was not the end; just an extraordinary beginning. MT
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