Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars

"Weak"

Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars Review


Throughout most of David Bowie's 1973 concert film "Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars," the flamboyantly androgynous (at the time) rock legend's performance isn't half as interesting as his gender-bending wardrobe.

In pancake makeup and his trademark spiky orange glam-mullet, Bowie's outfits include a duster-sleeved, silk kimono robe mini-dress and knee-high boots; a striped one-leg, one-sleeve body stocking accessorized with a boa and bangles the size of ring-toss rings; and a mesh shirt that reveals his beanpole frame, worn with a pair of capri pants and open-toed platform heels.

But for the first hour of the movie -- which was filmed at the farewell performance of the Ziggy Stardust persona and is now being re-released in a mediocre and muddy but "digitally remastered" print -- Bowie does little more in these get-ups than absent-mindedly pace the stage song after song, pausing once in a while to swing out a hip to place a hand on.

A low-budget early project by D.A. Pennebaker -- who went on to leave his mark on both concert movies ("Monterey Pop," Bob Dylan's "Don't Look Back") and documentaries ("The War Room," "Startup.com") -- the film is also riddled with cinematic snafus. Frequently grainy, out of focus or badly framed (Bowie's head is cut off in several shots), the lackluster five-camera cinematography gives no sense of the size of the audience or the arena (Hammersmith Odeon in London) and is composed of largely of static shots from stage left. The film's most engaging moments are close-ups of crying, screaming, breathless audience groupies, who seem to put more energy into performing elaborate sing-a-longs than Bowie puts into leading them.

Seven or eight songs into the concert -- after textureless versions of "Ziggy Stardust," "Watch that Man," "Moonage Daydream," "Changes" and "Space Oddity," among others -- Bowie's spirits seem to pick up with rousing renditions of "Cracked Actor," "Time" and "Let's Spend the Night Together." But even the best tunes in the film are musically inferior to the versions on Bowie's studio albums, and even when he finally springs to life for a final 30 minutes, his sometimes self-important performance is laden with gimmicky gestures like miming.

In between some numbers Pennebaker treats us to amusing backstage footage ("You're just a girl!" Bowie jokes with his wife "What do you know about makeup?"). But at the same time he'll cut back and forth to, say, a tedious 10-minute (or maybe it just seemed like 10 minutes) solo showdown between lead guitarist Mick Ronson and bassist Trevor Bolder.

If there's one thing "Spiders from Mars" does well, it's to capture the enthusiasm of Bowie's fans. A prologue outside the concert hall shows more dress-alikes than you'd see at a sci-fi convention, and Pennebaker's best footage comes from disco-ball-lit shots of the euphoric audience.

This limited theatrical re-release (certain to be followed by a DVD) may serve as a transporting flashback for Bowie fans who became fans during his Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane eras. But if you can get your hands on the hard-to-find video or DVD of Bowie's 1983 "Serious Moonlight" tour (videotaped for pay-cable channel Showtime), it's a vastly superior production, full of dynamic showmanship, and even a few of the same songs.



Facts and Figures

Production compaines: Bewlay Bros., Pennebaker Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Himself / Ziggy Stardust, as Himself, as Himself, Mick Woodmansey as Himself, as Herself

Also starring: ,

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

The 2012 Canadian comedy Goon was one of those surprising little films that snuck up...

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review

After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...

American Made Movie Review

American Made Movie Review

An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining...

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

Advertisement
The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

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.