David Bowie Doc Director Brett Morgen Explains Why He Used Rare Tour Footage Featuring 1980s Singapore - 8 Days Skip to main content

David Bowie Doc Director Brett Morgen Explains Why He Used Rare Tour Footage Featuring 1980s Singapore

Award-winning documentarian Brett Morgen had a tough time tracking down the 1984 documentary Richochet to use in his film Moonage Daydream
David Bowie Doc Director Brett Morgen Explains Why He Used Rare Tour Footage Featuring 1980s Singapore

A vintage partly-shot-in-Singapore 1980s travelogue plays a pivotal role in the David Bowie documentary Moonage Daydream, which opened in cinemas here last Thursday (Sept 15).

When renowned filmmaker Brett Morgen set out to make a documentary about David Bowie, he had at his disposal 5 million assets courtesy of the estate of the iconic British singer who died in January 2016.  By incorporating performance footage, rare interview reels, movie clips, diaries and artworks, as well as content from YouTube, Morgen ‘painted’ a mesmerising portrait of Bowie and his artistic endeavours that’ll enrapture both hardcore and casual fans.

Morgen, who's best known for his documentaries about The Rolling Stones (Crossfire Hurricane), Kurt Cobain (Cobain: Montage of Heck), conservationist Jane Goodall (Jane) and maverick film producer Robert Evans (The Kid Stays in the Picture), first pitched Bowie in 2007 a hybrid non-fiction film where the singer would reprise his Ziggy Stardust persona.

But the timing was right then and it wasn’t until after Bowie’s death that Morgen touched base with the Bowie estate that the project was resurrected.

Out of the all assets he had unfiltered access to, Morgen — who was introduced to Bowie via the 1980 album Scary Monsters while in seventh grade — says the most surprising thing he found was his words. “That actually is a shock,” Morgen tells 8days.sg over Zoom from London. “Listening to him talk about art, philosophy, and spirituality was a revelation for someone who didn’t know David Bowie. I had no idea how courageous he was, not just about his art but his life, about how he approached life. I find it incredibly inspiring.”

Morgen devoted four years to assembling the “experiential non-fiction film” and another 18 months designing the soundscape, animations, and colour palette.  

And the most important piece of media — “the Holy Grail” — Morgen unearthed from the archives was Ricochet, a 78-minute hybrid-documentary-fiction diary film about Bowie’s adventures in Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok during the Serious Moonlight World Tour in 1983.

The Singapore segment sees Bowie, sporting bleach blond hair a la Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner, chatting with a cab driver (about the proposed chewing gum ban), learning about Chinese street opera and checking out the just-opened Far East Plaza.

Back to the future: A scene from ‘Ricochet’ where David Bowie is making way to the Far East Plaza in 1983.

“When I saw Ricochet for the first time — I have never heard of it, never seen it, this was during my research — I lost mind,” Morgen recalls. “Because Ricochet captures what I think David was doing most of his life, which is exploring, wandering. He liked to be in environments that were foreign and distant to him. He liked to observe — he was a cultural anthropologist.”

Ricochet was released on VHS in 1984 and, for the most part, hasn’t been seen since.

“The film was kinda lost and when I told the estate this was to me an important piece of footage in [Moonage Daydream], they were like, ‘Ricochet? The one he was walking around?’,” Morgen says. “[I told them,] When you see my film, you’ll understand — it’s the visual metaphor that I need the film to come together. We ended up finding the 16mm negative in a vault in London, filed under the wrong name.”

Moonage Daydream (M18) is now in cinemas. There’s a post-show Q&A via Zoom with Morgen on Sat (Sept 24), 7.15pm at Projector X: Picturehouse.

Photos: UIP, TPG News/Click Photos

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