Saturday, April 06, 2019

David Bowie: Finding Fame

Directed by Francis Whately, David Bowie: Finding Fame is a documentary film about the early years in the career of David Bowie from the time he would change his name to events and early moments of success that would kick-start an illustrious career. The third and final film in a trilogy of documentaries by Whatley, the film would feature rare and archival footage of Bowie in his early years trying to make it as a pop star while trying to find his own voice that would make him the beloved icon of music. The result is an engrossing and evocative film from Francis Whately about the early years of one of popular music’s most enduring artists.

The film chronicles the early years of the career of David Bowie from 1965 to 1971 having been in several failed bands and a solo career under his real surname in Jones where he would be called Davie Jones until another British singer with a similar name became a pop star before him. Through archival audio and TV interviews from Bowie as well as interviews from several colleagues and friends including music producers Tony Visconti and Mike Vernon, musicians Mick “Woody” Woodmansey, John Cambridge, John “Hutch” Hutchinson, Mark Plati, Gail Ann Dorsey, Carlos Alomar, Mike Garson, Earl Slick, and Rick Wakeman who all bring insight into Bowie’s music of those early years.

Along with interviews from other musicians who played in some of the early bands Bowie was in as well as those who knew him personally like Geoffrey MacKormick, George Underwood, and famed mime/choreographer Lindsay Kemp (whom the film is dedicated to) in one of his final interviews as well as Bowie’s cousin Kristina Amadeus and former girlfriends in Dana Gillespie and Hermione Farthingale. The film also touches upon Bowie’s early life in Brixton and Bromley that would shape a lot of the music he would create early on including a key moment where Amadeus enters the old Jones family home in Bromley as she would talk about Bowie’s parents and their troubled family life often due to histories of mental illness including Bowie’s half-brother Terry who would suffer from schizophrenia as he would inspire a few songs Bowie would create.

Francis Whately’s direction utilizes a lot of archival and rare audio including a widely-rare audio of a BBC audition Bowie did with one of the bands he was in the Lower Third as band members Phil Lancaster and Denis Taylor talk about the audition where the former reads a review of the audition. It’s one of the film’s comical moments where Lancaster looks at this old piece of paper that claims that Bowie as a singer is someone that lacks personality which amuses Lancaster who is aware that the BBC figures on that audition clearly missed the boat of what this young singer would become. Much of the interviews that Whately and cinematographers Louis Caulfield and Richard Numeroff would show are straightforward with Amadeus’ scene at the old Jones’ family home in Bromley being a major highlight as it must be a big surprise that the current owners of that home couldn’t believe they’re living in the childhood home of one of Britain’s great treasures.

Editor Ged Murphy would help Whately compile many archival footage including archival interviews from one of Bowie’s early managers Ken Pitt and music producer Gus Dudgeon from the early 1990s as well as interview footage from Mick Ronson from a related Bowie documentary that’s about Bowie’s collaboration with Ronson. The archival footage that includes remastered footage of the rarely-seen promotional film Love You Til’ Tuesday as well as footage of Bowie’s collaboration with Lindsay Kemp and some of Bowie’s early TV appearances. Sound re-recording mixer Greg Gettens would also compile some rare audio including an audio clip of Bowie’s performance at the Glastonbury Festival in 1971 where he played at dawn to an audience of a few hundred people that would include work-in-progress versions of songs he would later create in his 1972 breakthrough album Hunky Dory and then perform those songs 29 years to a massive audience at Glastonbury where he was the headliner in what some consider to be his most legendary performance.

Hermione Farthingale is among one of the most interesting individuals interviewed in the film as she was considered the first love of Bowie’s life as she revealed a lot about their relationship and collaboration as a multimedia trio known as Feathers with John Hutchinson. Even as she talked about their break-up and events afterwards as she wouldn’t see him during the time he would become famous until 2013 which was the last time they saw each other. The film also play into the many influences Bowie had at the time including the Velvet Underground where longtime collaborator Carlos Alomar reveal similarities to a song by the Velvet Underground with an early single by Bowie in The Laughing Gnome. Another music piece that is unveiled relates to the song The London Boys as it’s considered to be one of Bowie’s early gems as he would re-record it in 2000 for the unreleased Toy album as it features a rarely-seen clip of Bowie performing the song for 2000 BBC performance with the musicians he was playing at the time playing to the re-recording of the song in a studio.

David Bowie: Finding Fame is a sensational film from Francis Whately. It’s a film that explore Bowie trying to find himself in his attempts to be famous where he would get his first taste of success with Space Oddity and continuously search to stand out. The film is a rich documentary that serves as a fitting end to a trilogy of documentaries that explore the music and life of David Bowie told by the man himself as well as those who knew him. In the end, David Bowie: Finding Fame is an incredible film from Francis Whately.

Related: Cracked Actor - David Bowie: Five Years - David Bowie: The Last Five Years

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