David Bowie Is review – Bowie’s brilliance shines in star-studded tribute

“He’s not even dead!” says one stunned young visitor to the V&A’s smash-hit exhibition on David Bowie, the subject of this highly enjoyable documentary tribute.

It stages dramatised tableaux around the exhibition space, interviews Bowie scholars, collaborators and fans, and showcases fascinating archival material.

Bowie emerges as an aesthete and a rebel, a figure of dissident, unrepentant gorgeousness. (Oddly, the movie doesn’t comment on the different-coloured eyes that were part of his exotic charm.)

He was a master and inspirer of many genres, including the lost art form of the 12-inch album cover, and his videos from the early 70s still stand up – although he was always a better actor in the videos than in his feature films. Watching this movie is reminder of how Bowie’s compelling Space Oddity intuited the real fear – now forgotten – that the Apollo 11 crew would conquer the moon but not return.

As this is a movie which concerns itself with the evanescent forms of style, I would have liked to see it say something about Bowie’s very brief, unhappy flirtation with fascist posturing – a flip, ironic provocation, not helped by drug issues. But even the greatest figures can do foolish things. As a child, David Bowie passed his 11-plus but chose to go to Bromley technical college, where he neglected his schoolwork and nourished his brilliance and self-belief. Does careerist intern Britain still produce Bowies?

David Bowie Is exhibition – in pictures

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Peter Bradshaw, for The Guardian on Thursday 13th November 2014 22.01 Europe/London

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