Impossible it is to forget the monumental final effort David Bowie created with Blackstar, it is the frankness and tragedy of dying first that cements him at a pillar higher than Cohen when comparing their final works. They passed in the same year. They both offered greatly differing, vibrant bodies of work that will hold their own in the years to come. But You Want It Darker is better. It is an album defined by its title track, remembered for those ghostly, tender and operatic voices that open Cohen’s swansong, and rightly so. Move beyond You Want it Darker though. Cohen does offer a welcome reflection on his career and life, as did Bowie with Blackstar, but the former offers much more than that with the tracks that followed.
Inevitably overshadowed by the death knell of Blackstar, David Bowie’s discography that preceded his final piece and followed Let’s Dance is a misty place. They aren’t all that talked of, never the favourite on any list. That is understandable, nobody is clamouring all too much for another Heathen, but the long lapses in new material and the breaks between do showcase new eras of Bowie’s work. The Next Day offers up his steadiest and most interesting record since Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), and far exceeds the farewell tone of his Blackstar release. That is more through the quality, variety and feeling around his return than anything else, although the spirited, soulful tracks help too.
We may wish for inspired results when the finest comedic minds of a generation come together under the umbrella of one project, but it was not to be for Yellowbeard. It is rare to see so many entertainers collaborate on something worthwhile and culturally embedded, and a film about the eponymous pirate, played by Graham Chapman, was never going to set the world on fire. It suffers from the overnumbered cast, who each bring a different styling of comedy to the table. That blend is bad enough, for it makes good comedians look bad. Yellowbeard takes the likes of Eric Idle, John Cleese, Cheech Marin and Marty Feldman, and turns them from torch-bearing heroes of the comedy genre to fumbling fools with anguish hidden behind grins and guffaws.
Taking inspiration from both the Gospel and Nikos Kazantzakis’ book of the same name, The Last Temptation of Christ offers director Martin Scorsese to channel his unflinching, unguarded beliefs and passions into a piece depicting the death of Jesus Christ. So much of The Bible and its message is open to complete interpretation, and Scorsese uses this to his advantage. He depicts an ancient story with pangs of modernity, both in soundtrack and style. His growth as a director can be seen here, and as his maturity sparks, so too does his adaptation of Christ and his final days among the people of Jerusalem.
In the many films that have captured the life and struggle of prisoners of war, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is perhaps one of the more brutal. After experiencing so many struggles within the Second World War on film, it does start to blend together. From time to time, it is difficult to distinguish one achingly horrid recollection of war crimes from the other. Such is the fast and free lifestyle we live, though, as we consume these stories. By far the greatest benefit of this World War Two-era piece from director Nagisa Ōshima is pop sensation, David Bowie. He had already proven himself a worthy leading man with The Man Who Fell to Earth, but he had not yet struck the tones of horror and healing made so clear by his performance in Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.
To appear so striking and so confident upon the debut of your craft is to have a respect for the screen and a co-ordination like no other. Tony Scott presents all in The Hunger, his freshman experience that sees two vampires grapple with the sudden mortality that afflicts John (David Bowie) who was promised eternal life alongside Miriam (Catherine Deneuve). As confident as these opening shots are, there is no escaping the seedy, early-80s misery inspired in pop music videos. These shadowy figures are explored by the shadows that hide them, the darkened rooms and pale cinematography a great denotation to the usual obscurity an engulfing of shadows would provide.
As David Lynch toys with his thematics and prose, Twin Peaks: The Return takes on a strange, unique form. Continuing on the events of Twin Peaks to some degree, the eighteen-episode series has a mind of its own. Shattering the traditional conventions of television with an ensemble cast of vaguely connected events, the highs and lows of Twin Peaks: The Return all circle around Lynch’s ability to feed a narrative through a series of inconsequential, yet wholly interesting events. That is the beauty and the brainlessness of the show, with a thankfully larger deal of highs than lows. Adapting a television show decades after its initial run is no small feat, any creative should fear such a challenge, but this director and his lengthy list of cast members seem up for the challenge.
To capture the town of Twin Peaks on the big screen is no small feat. Meticulous planning and light, cautious treading allows Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me to create a prequel to the David Lynch and Mark Frost television series with relatively sound results. After slowly pacing myself through two series of television that range from “superb” to “fine”, the film had filled me with a mixture of hope and hesitancy. Capturing the oddities and eccentricities would be no issue for Lynch and his capable cast, but making use of his time and engaging with this new format would inevitably lead to differing results. Twin Peaks works well in those forty-five-minute chunks of time. It works just as well here, but the scope and mood differ slightly.
Casting David Bowie of all people as an alien who, in the brief moments we see of him trying, cannot sing, is possibly one of the funniest circumstances within The Man Who Fell to Earth. A truly strange romantic drama that sees Bowie come to Earth in search of water, a vital resource that will save his home planet. He soon falls in love, becomes a businessman and spends his time trying to figure out how he can reroute some water to his catastrophically dehydrated home planet. Quite the unique entry into film, and considering this is one of the first times Bowie had taken to the big screen, The Man Who Fell to Earth could have become a complete disaster.
It’s been quite the year so far, hasn’t it? Feels a bit weird to be saying that in the middle of March but it has been a bit headstrong so far. A debilitating virus swirling globally, panic on the streets and social media alongside political misgivings, economic decline and climate decimation. We’re the doomed generation, and to compensate for that, here are ten songs that capture this bleak year so far. As expected, there were more than ten songs to hit up for this list, but I’ve made a nifty little list below for those that didn’t make the final cut.