Monday, September 22, 2014

'David Bowie Is' exhibition documentary screens Sept. 23; Chicago museum run starts

September 23 has been declared “David Bowie Day” in Chicago by the city's mayor, Rahm Emanuel. The proclamation comes in conjunction with the new exhibition opening David Bowie Is at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (MCA).

The travelling exhibit's lone U.S. stop will be displayed through January 4, 2015. 

Yet not everyone - even the most diehard Bowie fans like myself - can book a trip halfway across the country to visit a museum.

With that in mind, a documentary about the exhibit will screen in a hundred American theaters on Sept. 23 only (see below for the Southern California list).

Shot on the closing night of the Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition in London, the 94-minute documentary was helmed by award winning director Hamish Hamilton. It opens with highly personable curators Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh laying out what they tried to achieve: "We wanted you to feel like you entered a David Bowie world - an immersive, multi-sensory experience."

Indeed. They take the viewer through the various exhibit sections and explain them like a personally guided tour.

Only you don't have to wear any pesky headphones. You also don't get to be in the presence of the actual items from the Bowie archives, but that's only a minor inconvenience. The visual tour begins with a Bowie baby photo and special sculpture commemorating his 1947 birth.

Playwright Hanif Kureishi, who attended the same art school as Bowie (but at a different time), describes the hardship of living in South London during that period. There are close ups of Bowie's teenage sketches, rare images and video of his study of mime in 1967, sketches for the Space Oddity LP, early handwritten lyrics, etc.

Sixty of Bowie's costumes are displayed. The live event footage includes a brief talk by fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto, who recalls the first time they met and he spoke very little English.

An assistant curator from the V&A Museum describes the Ziggy Stardust outfit and other outlandish stage and television clothing from the 1970s-'90s. Later, censored costumes and videos ("Boys Keep Swinging") are discussed.

Pulp's Jarvis Cocker touches upon Bowie's songwriting and how viewing lyric drafts was an eye-opener because "his handwriting seemed like that of a teenage girl." Esteemed music journalist and author Paul Morley provides welcome insight about Bowie's songcraft.

Throughout the film, London exhibit visitors are interviewed about Bowie's impact on their lives and how the experience has personally affected them.

The newly commissioned animation based on Bowie's proposed musical based on George Orwell's "1984" is amazing. Photographer Terry O'Neil describes the session that led to the infamous Diamond Dogs cover. A graphic designer for latest album The Next Day goes over the thought behind its recycled simplicity.

A fascinating section of the film and exhibit revolves around Bowie's often unorthodox lyric writing method, utilizing Oblique Strategies cards co-created by musician/producer Brian Eno and a cut up method inspired by author William Burroughs.

Other segments are devoted to Bowie's influential Berlin recording period with Eno, Iggy Pop and Tony Visconti; Bowie's film work and a special exhibit featuring movie clips and props (Jim Henson's "Labyrinth"); music videos; Bowie's influence on popular culture and much more.

All told, it's an illuminating film and just might prompt you to book a flight to O'Hare.

To see the film trailer and to book movie theater tickets visit:

For exhibition tickets visit

Southern California Bowie fans can attend the 7:30 p.m. screenings at the following locations:

Vintage Vista Theatre
4473 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles

Arclight Cinemas
6360 W. Sunset Blvd, Hollywood

Laemmle's Playhouse
673 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena

Laemmle's NoHo 7
5240 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood

Laemmle Royal Theatre
11523 Santa Monica Blvd, West L.A.
Laemmle's Claremont
450 W 2nd St, Claremont

Muvico Thousand Oaks 14
166 W. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks

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