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How the Film World Is Mourning David Bowie

How the Film World Is Mourning David Bowie

While Hollywood was making its way home from Golden Globes after-parties, the world lost an artist for whom the word “legend” seems woefully insufficient: David Bowie died yesterday, 18 months after being diagnosed with cancer. His titanic influence on the world of music will be weighed elsewhere, but he left a profound mark on the cinema as well, despite starring in only a handful of movies over his nearly 50 years on the screen. In “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” “The Hunger,” and “Labyrinth,” he was literally otherworldly, but after burnishing his myth, he spent much of the last two decades playfully dismantling it, often playing a comical version of himself. In a memorable guest spot on “Extras,” he’s an oblivious pop savant who meets Ricky Gervais’ low-grade sitcom star and spontaneously composes a ditty about the “little fat man who sold his soul,” turning a moment of starry-eyed wonder into one of utter horror. He was the best of many screen Warhols because he understood that underneath the Pop Art visionary’s eccentric exterior beat the heart of a small-town boy — which may also be why he got on with David Lynch so well.

At Sight & Sound, Samuel Wigley pays tribute to five of Bowie’s best film performances. Jessica Kiang picks eight for The Playlist, and it’s a tribute to the depth of Bowie’s brief filmography that the lists don’t totally overlap. Keyframe’s David Hudson collects earlier writings on Bowie’s performances. Hilton Als calls him an “outsider who made different kids feel like dancing in that difference, and who had a genius for friendship, too” in the New Yorker. GQ’s Dorian Lynskey writes, “To Bowie life, like art, was a series of successful performances. You can be whatever you say you are, over and over again, provided you are entertaining and persuasive enough.” 

More tributes:

Drew McWeeny, HitFix

It felt like he never really got his proper due as an actor, and it baffled me. I loved his work in the John Landis film Into The Night, where he is sort of delightfully sleazy, and he was super-cool in Absolute Beginners, even if the film never quite caught up to him. I cannot say enough good about his work in Labyrinth, and I remember thinking at the time that people just weren’t paying attention to just how much fun he was as Jareth The Goblin King. I am not remotely surprised that the performance is now beloved, a cult icon, and that people love to recreate his look in the film. My god… the codpiece alone is one of the most startling things in any film Jim Henson created.

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