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Spoiler-free review

By Christiana

Exclusively from Raindance Film Festival

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As the film industry approaches the Awards Season, more and more filmmakers have expressed their interest in creating biographical films about various human rights activists, musicians and other culturally significant artists. With David Fincher’s upcoming feature about the making of “Citizen Kane”, the forthcoming Bob Dylan biopic starring Timothée Chalamet, and the postponement of the Aretha Franklin film, which was supposed to be released until the end of the year, it has become a challenge to stand out in this category.


Last week, an exclusive film of this sort premiered at Raindance, one of the most well-known film festivals that operate independently. This time, however, the making and development of the feature was much more unexpected and controversial as opposed to usual movies, because it is in fact focusing on David Bowie’s first tour in the United States. What is both surprising and outrageous about “Stardust”, according to many shared opinions expressed globally, is that Bowie actually insisted upon not being portrayed in any biopic after his death. And thus, it should come as no surprise that his entire family even rejected the director’s demand that he uses any of his original songs. Now, the question can only be whether or not the filmmakers’ attempt was successful or completely unwelcome by audiences and critics.


Director Gabriel Range, previously credited at Toronto International Film Festival and the BAFTA Awards for his impressive indie productions – “Death of a President” (2006) and “I Am Slave” (2010), chose to go further with his desired Bowie project, and shoot the film with no inclusion of his discography whatsoever. Eventually, this generated a series of negative responses from the artist’s fans, as well as reviewers who felt the script and direction were simply forced and unnecessary.


This is easily justifiable, because the momentum built around any musical biopic ignites from the audience’s passion and search for entertainment. In the absence of the musical factor, no movie incorporated in this genre can succeed, no matter the effort and dedication it receives technically. “Stardust” falls into this category, being one of the most disappointing features of the year, as it seems promising, yet oddly futile at first, only to become even more hopeless as the movie unveils. As the trailer was officially uncovered, the general atmosphere and setting of the plot seemed reasonable, even intriguing for a few moments, attracting the overall interest of the viewers upon this film. With its eventual premiere at the festival, the situation turned to be quite the polar opposite, hardly bringing any striking characteristic to the awaited success the filmmakers must have hoped for.


Instead of praising and resurfacing the ground-breaking persona and exquisite imagination possessed by the legendary musician, this script simply ignores every aspect related to the British icon’s talent. Supposedly wanting to craft the entire film as an introspective journey taking Bowie from his humble beginnings and concluding with his meteoric rise to fame, the writing process feels incomplete and unable to support the versatility and immensity of the person he was.


The technical departments were insufficiently sustained by the directorial perspective of Gabriel Range, which landed far from the genius that is David Bowie. In terms of accuracy and relevance in display, the film was aimless, apart from Johnny Flynn’s performance (“Emma”, “Beast”) which turned out to be the pleasant highlight. Adequate in accent, vocal range and the tone of voice, he portrayed a shy, yet provocative younger version of the musician, where certain aspects could have been improved, but were still significantly better than the overall product.


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