Top Picks: Bowie on Film

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By Rhiannon Turnbull

In celebration of one of the most influential artists in music, film, video and fashion the exhibition ‘David Bowie is’is currently on at The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), and a limited season of films that inspired and framed the legend are playing until September 20. These are my top picks.

The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
The Man Who Fell to Earth is Bowie’s first starring role, playing an uneasy, displaced extra-terrestrial who crash-lands on earth seeking a way to ship water to his planet, which is suffering from a severe drought. He sinks into the lowest depths of American culture through alcohol and television, providing a social commentary on society and isolation through media. It has since become a cult classic, and the cinematography alone is reason to see it on the big screen.

Cracked Actor (1974)
After retiring his Ziggy Stardust persona at London’s Hammersmith Odeon in 1973 Bowie relocates to Los Angeles and embarks on a North American Diamond Dogs Tour, a hugely theatrical and lavishly staged show. A documentary crew follows Bowie on the tour and the resulting film is a mix of documentary sequences and concert footage, some of which is from the film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972), also playing as a part of Bowie on Film. A must-watch for any Bowie fan, Cracked Actor has become notorious for showing his fragile mental state at the height of his drugs days.

Dogs in Space (1986)
Starring INXS lead Michael Hutchence, Dogs in Space is a cult ozploitation film set in a house occupied by a collection of social misfits, but is more about the ‘little band’scene in late 70s Melbourne and is both affectionate and critical of Australia’s middle-class punks. The opening scene features fans queuing for a David Bowie concert, a queue that famously lasted for the best part of a month –almost three weeks for the tickets and one for the gig.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)
Fire Walk With Me is a feature-length prequel to the television series Twin Peaks, which chronicles the last week of Laura Palmer’s life. Bowie plays a small role as Agent Phillip Jefferies. The film was met with a lot of criticism initially, after being screened at Cannes Film Festival in 1992, where director David Lynch was booed, but the film offers a fresh perspective on the television series, making it an interesting watch for any fans of the series.

The Prestige (2006)
The Prestige tells the story of two magicians, played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, whose intense rivalry leads them on a life-long battle for supremacy. Bowie has a small role in the film as Nikola Tesla (the only actual historical character of the film), a Serbian-American inventor and engineer, who eventually earned his reputation in pop culture as an archetypal mad scientist renowned for his achievements and showmanship, much the like the charismatic Bowie.

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