How do you memorialise David Bowie? It’s like trying to write an obituary for the sun. Seriously, how do you memorialise an actual star?
The world is less cool, less weird, and less…Bowie today, and will continue to be forever as now Bowie has left this strange planet. But what did Bowie leave us? Is there anything us lesser beings can learn from his time here?
Mainly, Bowie taught us a very simple, very big, very complicated, very easy thing: It’s okay to be weird. Actually, it’s not just okay, its better. Why be human when you can be superhuman? Why settle for being David Jones, a man from Brixton when you could be David Bowie, genderless, timeless, ageless, filled with raw talent and boundless imagination? He taught us to embrace the weirdness, to turn and face the strange, to do whatever you feel like doing until you get bored with being that person. Then go be someone else.
Cinematically, Bowie’s greatest gift to us was Jareth, the Goblin King in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. I will happily wait while you think of another actor or singer who could play the role of the Goblin King in trousers that tight surrounded by puppets and muppets and still look cool as hell. In fact, I won’t wait, because if I had to wait then I would be waiting until the heat death of the universe consumes us all in black holes and fire. Because you won’t think of anyone. The character is a huge pantomime villain but Bowie imbues him with danger and intense sexuality, so much so that on more than one occasion I’ve watched that movie with someone (men and women) who have said they would happily sacrifice the kidnapped child and stay with Jareth.
He also gave us the greatest cameo in movie history with his appearance in Zoolander. A crucial scene of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson about to have a walk off to settle who is the better model is heightened when, while looking for someone to judge the contest, a lone figure emerges from the crowd, removes his sunglasses and says, “Perhaps I can be of assistance.” Unlike the other famous people featured in the movie Bowie gets a name tag that zooms onto the screen to the strains of Let’sDance. When I first saw Zoolander in the cinema that was the scene that lingered with me and the one I used to persuade some friends they needed to come see it with me when I went to see it again. David Bowie was a celestial event to which no one could refuse a second chance to witness.
Finally, but by no means an afterthought, David Bowie gave us music. In terms of film, Bowie songs appear in a ton of movies but there are two I’ll focus on here. The first is Inglorious Basterds. Up until the third act the music has all been score and time period appropriate and then, as characters prepare for the finale, Bowie’s “Cat People” begins to play. It is a testament to Quentin Tarantino’s genius to know that this song at this moment would be completely perfect no matter what the historical setting of the movie. The music fits perfectly and compliments the scene while heightening the drama of it.
The other movie is The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Bowie is littered all over the place in this film as Seu Jorge is constantly singing acoustic covers of his hits in Portuguese, but also features in two crucial scenes. Upon learning he has a son, Zissou needs a minute to himself and walks the length of the ship as “Life on Mars?” surges around him. The other, better moment is the ending as all the characters return to the ship while “Queen Bitch” plays over them.
In the end, Bowie is forever a musician but in terms of film he’s worked with Nicholas Roeg, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Christopher Nolan, Jim Henson, and Tony Scott. A million musicians, writers, artists and movie makers cite him as an influence and a muse. He will never be forgotten by those who loved him and his influence will survive that universal heat death I mentioned earlier.
We’re told at any early age that all of the stars that we see in the sky are made of light from stars that actually died millions of years ago. He’s out there now, out among the stars, back to the mothership, back to wherever so wonderful a creature must have come from. He will forever be there, reminding us to be weird, be ourselves, be whatever we want.
So how do you memorialise a star? You look up.
When when you find yourself at a crossroads in your life, faced with hard decisions, faced with confusion, faced with boredom, faced with adversity, look up. Ask yourself what Bowie would do in this circumstance. And then just do that.
1947 – 2016