ON THE PASSING OF DAVID BOWIE

The recent passing of rennaissance man David Bowie reminded me of something. Back when the world was young — at least I was, anyway — I got my first professional writing gig working as a film critic on a local newspaper. Long before I came to research & write Lee Marvin Point Blank, I lucked into the gig through the auspices of grade school friend, Randy Economy. He was a full-fledged reporter at the now long defunct Southern California Coumminty News  (SCCN) and recommended me for the position.
It was a strange exisitence, to say the least, in that I was working as a janitor at Kaiser Permanente Hospital on the midnight shift but on most evenings, I was attendng film premieres and sneak previews: sort of a reverse Bruce Wayne.
Most of the assignments were, just that, assigned. On rare ocassions I would beg and cajole the arts editor to let me do a take on a particuluar film based soley on the fact that I wanted to see the film. One such film was Merry Chirstmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983).

Poster art for MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. LAWRENCE, one of the few that depicted the entire main cast of Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Bowie, Tom Coniti, Jack Thompson and Takeshi.

Poster art for MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. LAWRENCE, one of the few that depicted the entire main cast of Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Bowie, Tom Coniti, Jack Thompson and Takeshi.

I was a pretty cocky 23-year-old in those days and as I look back on it, I wonder where I got the stones to think I was capable of accurately reviewing a film, let along even getting the job. Ahh, youth. Anyway, Mr. Lawrence was one of the films I thought I could do justice to, simply because I thought I knew the genre so well. Rereading the review today, I wince at that audacity but, truth be told, it’s not entirely inaccurate. I just really was not prepared to deal with the subject matter of one of the core themes of the film.
Having seen the film many times since, one of the aspects I might change in the original review is my opinion of Bowie’s performance. He was infinitely more remarkable than I first recall. It’s a shame the powers that be did not know how to deal with his offbeat persona, as film really was a great medium for his talents. Most fans of course point to The Man Who Fell to Earth as a prime example of his talents. But there were others: The aging vampire in The Hunger, the  Chesire Cat smiling hit man in Into The Night, the pop star in Absolute Beginners, even his Pontius Pilate in Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ is worthy of reappraisal.
Although not a fan, I saw him in concert in 1989 and soon became one. It drove home the face-palm response I should have known all along. His was an immense intepretative talent  too big for the powers that be and the insuffiecent use of it was our loss. I wished I had known that at the time. Instead. I wrote what you see below. Peace, farewell and amen, Mr. Bowie.

My review of MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. LAWRENCE way back in 1983 for SCCN.

My review of MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. LAWRENCE way back in 1983 for SCCN.

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