Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars Reviews

  • May 13, 2016

    To look at Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and be much too critical of it, and this is now four months since David Bowie left his corporeal form (has it been that long already?) is difficult. I know I can certainly nitpick certain things, mostly in the streak of the 'auteur'; given that this is DA Pennebaker, who also brought us basically the definitive Dylan doc from the era a decade before this, Don't Look Back, and the precursor to Woodstock in Monterey Pop, this isn't quite as superlative as those films as far as the Cinema Verite fly-on-the-wall approach. There's some behind the scenes stuff, but it's not terribly involving (aside from seeing Bowie's make-up put on to make him Ziggy) as the conversations seem muted and uninteresting (yes, even with Ringo backstage which seems a feat). BUT, and this is the big but here, I know deep down I don't care, at least as far as why I wanted to watch this again. And somehow, of all things, watching his life performance here of 'Space Oddity' finally made me cry. I don't know whether it would've brought me to tears (not for too long, just enough, and some of it was due to feeling a connection with the audience as a couple of people shown by Pennebaker's camera were also in tears), but it was in that moment it hit me: we won't get this again, not quite in this style, not quite in this style, not shot on such rough film and in such an atmosphere. Of course there are still provocateurs in rock/pop (Marilyn Manson on the heavier side, Lady Gaga on the more space-driven and sexual, if it can somehow get more sexual than Bowie), but Bowie was his own sound much as Tarantino was and is his own filmmaker: taking from various sources (rock, blues, glam from T-Rex, the avant-garde rock of Lou Reed, Iggy Pop to an extent) and making it his own giant and unmistakbale SOUND in full caps. And don't forget this is David Bowie as Ziggy friggin Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - including the practically incomparable guitarist Mick Ronson on guitar playing like he's ten years ahead of the fashion and heavy metal stars only still in his own class - and playing off of all the works he'd done up through the masterpiece Aladdin Sane. Here you get to see him perform many of his big hits (along with Oddity you get 'Changes' and 'Suffragette City' and his own rendition of 'All the Young Dudes' which he wrote), and Pennebaker and his crew are at times breathless to keep up and yet have enough cameras and sense to also get the crowd. The audience is a key part of this, even as at times it's hard to see all of them and the lights make it into its own stylized piece of filmmaking; they're often seen only briefly, and yet what we see is enough and, again, I think this helps to connect the audience watching the film further with the band. But for all the hits (and some covers, like 'White Light White Heat' and 'Let's Spend the Night Together'), the stand-outs here are the songs that people who only know Bowie from classic rock radio won't know as well. By the time that Bowie and the Spiders get to 'Time', which is more indebted to German lounge singing of the early 20th century (Threepenny Opera anyone?), the softer but incredibly incisive 'My Death', and a wild, possibly overlong but who the hell cares rendition of his most metal-ish song 'The Width of a Circle', he's on fire as a performer and totally in control of how he can command a stage and an audience. In other words it may not be the perfect rock documentary, hence why it's not the full top-star rating. But as far as performances by mega-stars in their prime, this is a keeper (and ironic that this was his "final" performance, of course just the beginning of the many many Bowies). And yet the tears I had briefly watching this and coming to grips after months of feeling numb to his loss were I think the fact that he'd still be iconic if all he left was this.

    To look at Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and be much too critical of it, and this is now four months since David Bowie left his corporeal form (has it been that long already?) is difficult. I know I can certainly nitpick certain things, mostly in the streak of the 'auteur'; given that this is DA Pennebaker, who also brought us basically the definitive Dylan doc from the era a decade before this, Don't Look Back, and the precursor to Woodstock in Monterey Pop, this isn't quite as superlative as those films as far as the Cinema Verite fly-on-the-wall approach. There's some behind the scenes stuff, but it's not terribly involving (aside from seeing Bowie's make-up put on to make him Ziggy) as the conversations seem muted and uninteresting (yes, even with Ringo backstage which seems a feat). BUT, and this is the big but here, I know deep down I don't care, at least as far as why I wanted to watch this again. And somehow, of all things, watching his life performance here of 'Space Oddity' finally made me cry. I don't know whether it would've brought me to tears (not for too long, just enough, and some of it was due to feeling a connection with the audience as a couple of people shown by Pennebaker's camera were also in tears), but it was in that moment it hit me: we won't get this again, not quite in this style, not quite in this style, not shot on such rough film and in such an atmosphere. Of course there are still provocateurs in rock/pop (Marilyn Manson on the heavier side, Lady Gaga on the more space-driven and sexual, if it can somehow get more sexual than Bowie), but Bowie was his own sound much as Tarantino was and is his own filmmaker: taking from various sources (rock, blues, glam from T-Rex, the avant-garde rock of Lou Reed, Iggy Pop to an extent) and making it his own giant and unmistakbale SOUND in full caps. And don't forget this is David Bowie as Ziggy friggin Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - including the practically incomparable guitarist Mick Ronson on guitar playing like he's ten years ahead of the fashion and heavy metal stars only still in his own class - and playing off of all the works he'd done up through the masterpiece Aladdin Sane. Here you get to see him perform many of his big hits (along with Oddity you get 'Changes' and 'Suffragette City' and his own rendition of 'All the Young Dudes' which he wrote), and Pennebaker and his crew are at times breathless to keep up and yet have enough cameras and sense to also get the crowd. The audience is a key part of this, even as at times it's hard to see all of them and the lights make it into its own stylized piece of filmmaking; they're often seen only briefly, and yet what we see is enough and, again, I think this helps to connect the audience watching the film further with the band. But for all the hits (and some covers, like 'White Light White Heat' and 'Let's Spend the Night Together'), the stand-outs here are the songs that people who only know Bowie from classic rock radio won't know as well. By the time that Bowie and the Spiders get to 'Time', which is more indebted to German lounge singing of the early 20th century (Threepenny Opera anyone?), the softer but incredibly incisive 'My Death', and a wild, possibly overlong but who the hell cares rendition of his most metal-ish song 'The Width of a Circle', he's on fire as a performer and totally in control of how he can command a stage and an audience. In other words it may not be the perfect rock documentary, hence why it's not the full top-star rating. But as far as performances by mega-stars in their prime, this is a keeper (and ironic that this was his "final" performance, of course just the beginning of the many many Bowies). And yet the tears I had briefly watching this and coming to grips after months of feeling numb to his loss were I think the fact that he'd still be iconic if all he left was this.

  • Jan 11, 2016

    Saw this at the infamous Queen Theater back in the day.

    Saw this at the infamous Queen Theater back in the day.

  • Nov 05, 2015

    Absolutely I love this film.

    Absolutely I love this film.

  • Apr 13, 2014

    A landmark documentary about a landmark show.

    A landmark documentary about a landmark show.

  • Jan 12, 2014

    Decent capture of David Bowie at his creative, flamboyant best. Good concert, and it's not all about Bowie. Mick Ronson's guitaring almost steals the show. Interesting behind-the-scenes footage adds a new, more personal, aspect to the live concert genre. Could have done with more of that though, as the behind-the-scenes stuff is fleeting, and sometimes seems token. Maybe some footage of practices and sound checks, or interviews with Bowie, would have been in order. Not perfect though. Production quality is quite raw and rough. Sound quality is variable. A must-see for all David Bowie fans.

    Decent capture of David Bowie at his creative, flamboyant best. Good concert, and it's not all about Bowie. Mick Ronson's guitaring almost steals the show. Interesting behind-the-scenes footage adds a new, more personal, aspect to the live concert genre. Could have done with more of that though, as the behind-the-scenes stuff is fleeting, and sometimes seems token. Maybe some footage of practices and sound checks, or interviews with Bowie, would have been in order. Not perfect though. Production quality is quite raw and rough. Sound quality is variable. A must-see for all David Bowie fans.

  • Oct 30, 2013

    I wish so hard i could have been there

    I wish so hard i could have been there

  • May 22, 2013

    Love the Cheongsam like robe Bowie is wearing in it

    Love the Cheongsam like robe Bowie is wearing in it

  • Oct 31, 2012

    I watched this last night for the first time in a long time, and it just blew me away all over again.

    I watched this last night for the first time in a long time, and it just blew me away all over again.

  • Aug 10, 2012

    Not really a documentary at all but the concert that was to dismay Bowie fans (and the Spiders) when he announced it would be the last as Ziggy Stardust. The music is obviously amazing but the real treat for the fan who will never get that chance to see the live performance is Mick Ronson's guitar playing. Incredible.

    Not really a documentary at all but the concert that was to dismay Bowie fans (and the Spiders) when he announced it would be the last as Ziggy Stardust. The music is obviously amazing but the real treat for the fan who will never get that chance to see the live performance is Mick Ronson's guitar playing. Incredible.

  • Jul 22, 2012

    Glam at it's best. Great set list, great musicians, but bad sound (VHS Version). IMO the best era of Bowie, thank god it's documented.

    Glam at it's best. Great set list, great musicians, but bad sound (VHS Version). IMO the best era of Bowie, thank god it's documented.