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.”
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.
Very sorry and sad to say it’s true. I’ll be offline for a while. Love to all. pic.twitter.com/Kh2fq3tf9m
— Duncan Jones (@ManMadeMoon) January 11, 2016
They just started playing Bowie at the Fox party for the Golden Globes. People dancing ecstatically. Some don’t know. Jealous of them.
— Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) January 11, 2016
Listened to Blackstar on Saturday, dazzled. Overnight, a very fine record becomes a heartbreakingly fine one. RIP
— Jonathan Romney (@JonathanRomney) January 11, 2016
Bowie. My favourite solo artist, first concert I ever saw, consistently great for six decades, it can’t be. His music is truly immortal now.
— edgarwright (@edgarwright) January 11, 2016
David Bowie was not just a great pop star but an important one, because he made change sexy.
— Matt Zoller Seitz (@mattzollerseitz) January 11, 2016
Bowie existed so all of us misfits learned that an oddity was a precious thing. he changed the world forever.
— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) January 11, 2016
Every weird kid I knew loved Bowie. He made his difference into art, he made his art about difference, he made a difference. #RIP
— James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) January 11, 2016
David Bowie was beautiful and brilliant and staggeringly important but every outsider and weirdo and introvert felt like he was their friend
— Nathan Rabin (@nathanrabin) January 11, 2016
Every idea I’ve had about performance and identity and using layers of meaning in your work comes directly from him. He was my first love.
— Robert Greene (@prewarcinema) January 11, 2016
“Time, he’s waiting in the wings
He speaks of senseless things
His script is you and me, boys.”
— a. o. scott (@aoscott) January 11, 2016
And all the nobody people
And all the somebody people
I never thought I’d need
So many people
I love you, David Bowie. Rest in peace.
— Glenn Kenny (@Glenn__Kenny) January 11, 2016
“Take a look at the lawman beating up the wrong guy.” 2016. #RIPDavidBowie
— Cameron Bailey (@cameron_tiff) January 11, 2016
He was everything. Easily my most listened-to, danced to, obsessed over, impersonated & cherished musical icon who ever lived. Untouchable.
— Tim Robey (@trim_obey) January 11, 2016
We got to live in Bowie times. We won the lottery. Take that, past and future generations.
— Ignatiy Vishnevetsky (@vishnevetsky) January 11, 2016
Devastated over the death of David Bowie. Few artists have had as an important role in my life and work, including Guardians, as he had.
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) January 11, 2016
It feels like we lost something elemental, as if an entire color is gone. #DavidBowie
— Carrie Brownstein (@Carrie_Rachel) January 11, 2016
— Jeffrey Wright (@jfreewright) January 11, 2016
David Bowie. No musician has had a greater influence on my life. A genius by any measure. May he rest in peace.
— John Sloss (@johnsloss) January 11, 2016
It feels like he ended gender and that all our youth cultures died with him.
(I know it’s not true, but sort of feels that way right now.)
— Miriam Bale (@mimbale) January 11, 2016
This will be today. pic.twitter.com/KDfUFklBut
— Noel Murray (@NoelMu) January 11, 2016
The thought of Greta Gerwig running through New York to “Modern Love” is making me emotional.
— Mike Ryan (@mikeryan) January 11, 2016
David Bowie. In the adaptation of the Diary of a Teenage Girl, he BECAME into Iggy Pop, but it was David. Bowie. pic.twitter.com/7iLS8pK1kJ
— phoebe gloeckner (@phoebelouise) January 11, 2016