Anna Jones from the Clapham Picturehouse previews this week’s Discover Tuesdays presentation David Bowie: Sound and Vision.
2016 was a tumultuous year for many, and David Bowie’s death in January felt almost symbolic: a melancholic marker of what was to come. This screening marks the anniversary of that sad day by celebrating the musician known for appearances on screen in films such as Labyrinth, The Man Who Fell To Earth, The Hunger, and Fire Walk With Me, not to mention his hilarious cameo in Extras. The shorts in today’s Discover Tuesdays screening are lesser known, but speak volumes about Bowie’s constant self-reinvention throughout his life. Spanning the majority of his remarkable career, they are representative of his diversity, creativity and artistry.
Michael Armstrong’s 1967 short The Image was first shown during the intermission between two sex films in London, and subsequently received an X rating. Lynchian in effect, and filmed in black and white on an obviously meagre budget, it tells the story of an artist haunted by an apparition – played by a fresh-faced 20-year-old Bowie – that emerges from a portrait he has painted.
Written by Bowie and directed by Julien Temple, 1984’s Grammy-winning Jazzin’ For Blue Jean was ostensibly a music video for the Blue Jean single. However, the song only features briefly – the 22-minute video focuses on the hapless Vic (played by Bowie) attempting to impress a girl by introducing her to the mysterious and glamorous singer Screamin’ Lord Byron (also played by Bowie). Vic’s character is fumbling and surprisingly funny, whereas Byron’s onstage persona is contrasted with a feeble and fearful disposition offstage. The ending is a wonderful demonstration of Bowie’s comedic abilities.
Steven Lippman, known previously for his work with Laurie Anderson, directs Reality, a 2003 film interspersing abstract music videos with Bowie interviewing himself through a television screen. Asking a series of questions ranging from the serious to the inane (“Ketchup or mustard?”), Bowie talks over himself as he traverses topics such as paganism and the pentagram of churches in Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor (perhaps, in part, inspiration for his Blackstar album). In the talking-head-style footage, Bowie appears calm and composed, juxtaposed with the music video footage, which portrays light and dark with frenetic and evocative imagery.
These shorts are a brilliant reminder of David Bowie’s legacy – originality, humility, and a pioneering awareness of himself, the future and his own mortality. He will be sorely missed, but he leaves us with a catalogue of incredible work.
50p from every ticket sold for LSFF David Bowie: Sound and Vision programmes nationwide will be donated to Save The Children.