Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of Mars

"Very Good"

Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of Mars Review


A documentary with stars? How else could one describe a film that captured one of the most influential and theatrical performers of rock 'n' roll, in what many critics consider the peak of his career. Full of energy and androgynous charisma, David Bowie shined for a thoroughly rapt audience during his final performance as Ziggy Stardust at the Hammerstein Odeon on July 3, 1973, and renowned documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker (Monterey Pop) was there to film it with all the intelligent respect you could want.

Though Bowie and band performed with much gimmickry to entertain the masses, their musical talent is still more enjoyable than watching Bowie be stripped of clothing on stage. If their songs weren't so engaging, the outrageous fashion style probably wouldn't have been able to push the gender-bending boundaries that so many other bands would later fail to copy. Bowie has his own limits of showmanship that keep you focused on the music instead of his exacting bodily movements. He doesn't just prance around on stage or gyrate, but utilizes facial expressions and simple gestures to add a texture of personality to what he sings. It's surprising yet touching when, after singing the line "...in front of that door is," the entire audience jumps on "me," which gets treated with a genuinely friendly smile.

And true to the nature for which Pennebaker is so well regarded, the concert is shot and edited, with newly digitized sound in this reissue, to place the moviegoer in that auditorium. You want to cheer, hold up a lighter, and sing along... if it were socially acceptable in a movie theater. The musicians have an addictively contagious kinesis that is difficult to dissociate from, even though you're watching an event from 30 years ago.

Adding to the voyeuristic fascination are a handful of interesting preparation clips of Bowie getting ready in the dressing room, which give you a sense of someone who is easygoing (though this could have been the effects of notorious drug usage) but works hard. You can see it's important to Bowie that he performs well, though he never utters a word to the effect. His costumes, his make-up, each detail seems pre-planned for more than just shock value. Why he chooses these means is irrelevant, but that he cares for these specifics provokes an unexpected admiration for this skinny little guy who oozes sex appeal with little effort. Complementary to Bowie's own penchant for recognizing his cohorts, Ziggy also takes time to show off the other band members during their powerful strumming.

The difficulty of watching Ziggy lies more in technical aspects that are impossible to fix. As it was shot during a concert, with squished fans and available lighting, the camera can only pick up so much and often swerves or doesn't catch the image it searches for in the darkness. While this adds to the chaotic feeling of a live show, it can hurt the eyes to watch it for too long. Visual annoyances aside, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars is a precious time capsule worth appreciating, whether you were around to appreciate the original or not.



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Chips Movie Review

Chips Movie Review

It's clear from the very start that this movie has little to do with the...

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to...

The Salesman Movie Review

The Salesman Movie Review

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar with this astute drama which, like 2011's...

Get Out Movie Review

Get Out Movie Review

Leave it to a comedian to make one of the scariest movies in recent memory....

Personal Shopper Movie Review

Personal Shopper Movie Review

After winning a series of major awards for her role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of...

Advertisement
Certain Women Movie Review

Certain Women Movie Review

In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

After the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot, the Warner Bros monsters get their own franchise,...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a...

Logan Movie Review

Logan Movie Review

Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.