“Bowie: Starman and the Silver Screen” launches BFI Southbank programme for 2022

BFI - Bowie: Starman and the Silver Screen

The BFI recently announced Bowie: Starman and the Silver Screen, a month-long season celebrating actor and performer David Bowie, will take place at BFI Southbank, London, from 1st – 30th January 2022. The programme includes a number of terrific SF, horror and fantasy films he either appeared in, or was influenced by, including The Man Who Fell to Earth and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.

Originally planned for January 2021, the season’s mixture of feature films, television and documentaries will show that, whether a bit-part, starring role, or being just himself, David Bowie was always magnetic on screen. Films screening in the season will include The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976), Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (Nagisa Ôshima, 1983) Christiane F. (Uli Edel, 1981), The Hunger (Tony Scott, 1983) and Labyrinth (Jim Henson, 1986), while documentaries, concert films and TV work will include Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders from Mars (DA Pennebaker, 1979), Baal (Alan Clarke, 1982), Bowie at Glastonbury 2000 (BBC, 2000) and a collection of rare TV material from the BFI National Archive.

Labyrinth (Jim Henson, 1986) - David Bowie
Labyrinth (Jim Henson, 1986)

Also screening will be a new video essay by season co-curator Rhidian Davis for the latest series of BBC Inside Cinema; the essay will screen alongside select films in the season, as well as online on BBC iPlayer.

As a composer, innovator and concept artist, Bowie’s fascination for film fed an insatiable creative drive, which the season will explore via a selection of films that influenced him. Hooked to the Silver Screen: Bowie at the Movies will feature a range of titles, from 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968) and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920) to Querelle (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1982) and Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976).

The season will also see the return of BUG with comedian Adam Buxton, with two David Bowie special editions on 6th and 7th January.

Bowie’s engagement with film, theatre and design forged his high-concept approach to pop stardom and supercharged the evolution of music video; BUG Special: David Bowie will be a fan’s journey through the career of an artist whose influence on modern popular culture will continue to be felt for decades, featuring music videos, rare clips, animation and comedy.

Following the 7th January event there will be an after-party in Spiritland at Royal Festival Hall, featuring a DJ set from Charlotte Hatherley.

On what would have been Bowie’s 75th birthday, 8 January, there will be a special talk – David Bowie: So I Felt Like an Actor – presented by lecturer, author and Bowie fan Graham Rinaldi. The talk will take an in- depth look at Bowie’s film roles, from leading actor to the briefest of cameos and will also include a full screening of short film, Jazzin’ for Blue Jean (Julien Temple, 1984).

Some key Bowie titles, including The Man Who Fell to Earth and Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, and a number of the films from Hooked to the Silver Screen series will also be available for audiences across the UK to watch on BFI Player throughout January.

• Tickets for Bowie: Starman and the Silver Screen will go on sale to BFI Patrons and Champions on 6th December, BFI Members on 7th December and to the general public on 9th December 2021. Audience members aged 25 and Under can sign up and take advantage of £3 tickets to any film in the season, available to book in advance or on the day of the screening | Web: www.bfi.org.uk

David Bowie’s Feature Film Roles

The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976) - David Bowie
The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976)

It can be hard to look beyond Bowie ‘the star’ to appreciate the characters he portrayed, but six years on from his passing, Bowie’s star still sparkles brightly.

Bowie’s first starring role was in The Man Who Fell to Earth as an alien outfitted in human skin who’s forced to come to earth to save his dying planet. Nic Roeg found in Bowie’s eccentricity just what he was looking for – not an actor trying to play an alien, but a lost soul trying to play a human.

The film adaptation of Kai Hermann’s controversial biography of a teen junkie and sex worker, Christiane F. (Uli Edel, 1981), marks its 40th anniversary in 2021. The film positioned Bowie as a brooding god for the alienated youth of 1970s West Berlin via his omnipresent image in the film (in which he played himself) – on streets, subways, on vinyl albums passed from hand to hand, and in a live concert within the film.

David Bowie in The Hunger (1983)
David Bowie in The Hunger (1983)

The opening scene of Tony Scott’s The Hunger (1983) sets the tone for an impeccably stylish, erotic horror as Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie, stalk across the screen accompanied by Bauhaus’ goth-rock track ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’. The Hunger focuses on Miriam’s doomed vampiric romances, including one with a sceptical scientist, who becomes the latest subject of Miriam’s primal passion.

Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto (another musician-turned-actor) play strangely bonded antagonists in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, a study of brutalisation and repressed desire in a Japanese POW camp. Julien Temple’s Absolute Beginners (Julien Temple, 1986) is a tale of young lovers divided. Set against a backdrop of generational conflict, gentrification and white supremacy in 1950s London, it is a riot of day-glo production design and anarchic energy featuring Bowie as an ad man who gets a memorable number, dancing atop a spinning globe and an over-sized type-writer.

Directed by the legendary Jim Henson, and starring Jennifer Connelly alongside David Bowie, Labyrinth was a commercial disappointment upon release and received mixed reviews, but has since become a cult favourite with children and adults alike.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (David Lynch, 1992) - David Bowie
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (David Lynch, 1992)

Originally met with universal derision, almost 30 years on Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (David Lynch, 1992) has had an exceptional reversal of fortune: the feature-length follow-up to the hit TV series is now heralded as a masterpiece in horror. Featuring a short but impactful appearance from Bowie as Agent Jeffries, this terrifying fever-dream that lives long in the memory is led by a stunning performance from Sheryl Lee.

Artist Julian Schnabel’s directorial debut Basquiat (1996) is a star-studded biopic of the gifted and prolific painter and street artist Jean Michel Basquiat, who died at the age of 27. Alongside an all-star cast, Bowie plays Andy Warhol, whom he was fascinated with and dedicated a song to on his fourth album Hunky Dory.

In The Prestige (Christopher Nolan, 2006) Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman play rival master magicians on the late-19th century stage, each competing to outdo the other both professionally and in their private lives. Christopher Nolan petitioned Bowie to play the role of Nikola Tesla as he couldn’t imagine anyone else as the physicist, engineer and innovator.

Hooked to the Silver Screen: Bowie at the Movies

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920)
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920)

David Bowie’s parents first met in a cinema in Tunbridge Wells where his mother worked as an usher. A formative viewing of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920) at the age of 14 had a great impact and cast a long shadow over Bowie’s imagination, instilling in him a lifelong passion for German Expressionism. Visits to the cinema would prove creative turning points throughout his career, inspiring existing collaborations and sparking new ones.

Metropolis (1927)
Metropolis (1927)

In addition to screenings of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, there will screenings of Metropolis (1927), Fritz Lang’s vision of a futuristic city where workers toil like machine components to sustain the pleasure-seeking lifestyle of a ruling elite. The grandest sci-fi film of the silent era, Bowie would return to Metropolis numerous times for inspiration, most fully in the dystopian sci-fi of his 1974 album Diamond Dogs. Screening alongside Metropolis will also be Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí’s surrealist short, Un Chien Andalou (1929).

Un Chien Andalou (1929)
Un Chien Andalou (1929)

Stanley Kubrick’s cosmic sci-fi masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was cited by Bowie as the inspiration for “Space Oddity”, his first hit. Opening with the dawn of man before voyaging to the limits of the known universe in the company of Dr David Bowman and a sentient computer called HAL, 2001 is now established as a landmark in cinema.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Also screening will be Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971), set in a flamboyantly stylised near-future where boisterous gangs of disenfranchised teenagers revel in acts of “ultraviolence”. Alex and his ‘droogs’ became cult antiheroes for a generation when the film was withdrawn from distribution amidst accusations that it had inspired copycat crimes. Bowie would copy everything from costumes to poster art in his creation of Ziggy Stardust.

Also screening will be Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s final film, Querelle (1982), released posthumously after his death from a drug overdose. An adaptation of Jean Genet’s homoerotic novel about a beautiful opium-dealing sailor on shore leave, this dream-like tale of sex, betrayal, murder, and the quest for self-discovery is shot with a highly stylised aesthetic that’s striking and surreal.

Screening alongside Querelle will be Un Chant D’Amour (1950), the only film from French writer Jean Genet, which was long-banned due its explicit content; Genet’s name influenced one of Bowie’s biggest hits The Jean Genie.

Completing the line-up will be screenings of Taxi Driver (1976), Scorsese’s iconic tale of Travis Bickle, an insomniac ex- marine traumatised by Vietnam, who is disgusted by the nocturnal New York street life he observes from his taxi. Wowed by the film in Berlin, Bowie would go on to collaborate with Scorsese and Schrader on film projects, including The Last Temptation of Christ (Martin Scorsese, 1988), which is available on BFI Player.

• Tickets for Bowie: Starman and the Silver Screen will go on sale to BFI Patrons and Champions on 6th December, BFI Members on 7th December and to the general public on 9th December 2021. Audience members aged 25 and Under can sign up and take advantage of £3 tickets to any film in the season, available to book in advance or on the day of the screening | Web: www.bfi.org.uk

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