×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Cracked Actor: The Films of David Bowie To Unspool at Lincoln Center

Rock stars in movies have always been more of a novelty than anything else. Elvis clearly wanted to be taken seriously as an actor, but his movies served as softball vehicles to sell soundtracks. Mick Jagger’s dissolute rock star in “Performance” (1970) capitalized on his Mephistophelean public persona at the time, but veering from that image didn’t work in his favor in subsequent films. And Prince did an effective job playing himself in “Purple Rain,” only to spoil that good will with the misguided “Under the Cherry Moon.”

David Bowie’s movie career, however, reveals a more chameleonic nature that’s in line with his various music identities, from late ’60s modster to Ziggy Stardust to the Thin White Duke and beyond. His film work will be on display Aug. 2-8 in New York when the Film Society of Lincoln Center presents “Watch That Man: David Bowie, Movie Star.”

If there’s a through line in Bowie’s film canon it’s the ability to transform himself from role to role, which might have something to do with an androgynous appeal that has served him well as a performer, no matter what the medium. The weeklong series at Lincoln Center lays it out in comprehensive fashion, from his gender-bending, stranger-in-a-strange land performance as an alien in Nicolas Roeg’s “The Man Who Fell to Earth” (1976) to his real-life portrayals of a mincing Andy Warhol in Julian Schnabel’s “Basquiat” (1996) and elegant scientific visionary Nicola Tesla in Christopher Nolan’s “The Prestige” (2006).

There’s also a healthy dose of Bowie playing Bowie in the documentary “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars — The Motion Picture,” which chronicled Bowie’s 1973 U.K. tour; “Cracked Actor,” which captured the 1974 “Diamond Dogs” tour; and the video compilation “David Bowie: The Music Videos 1979-2013.” There’s also the collaboration with Julian Temple, who cut his teeth directing music vids for the likes of Bowie, in Temple’s homage to late ’50s bohemian London, “Absolute Beginners.”

And for those who appreciate the more rare the better, there’s the U.S. premiere of BBC-TV’s adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s first play “Baal” (1982), in which Bowie plays the title role as the debauched artist-poet.

Film Comment editor-in-chief Gavin Smith, who described Bowie as “one of the first music artists to harness the potential of the music video in the pre-MTV era,” says that Bowie’s film roles “set up an intriguing and unique dialogue with his shape-shifting image as a musical performer.”

All screenings will take place at the Walter Reade Theater. Visit http://www.FilmLinc.com for more info.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • 'No Safe Spaces' Review: A Doc

    Film Review: 'No Safe Spaces'

    If, like me, you’re an absolutist about the right to free speech, not just the legal letter of it but the stubborn spirit of it (as in: bring on the people I hate the most and let them speak, speak, speak until they’re blue in the face), then when you watch “No Safe Spaces,” a [...]

  • Frozen 2

    ‘Frozen 2’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Walt Disney Animation claims the top spot in spending with “Frozen 2.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $6.29 million through Sunday for 1,157 national ad airings on [...]

  • The Farewell Movie

    'The Farewell's' China Release Delayed

    The long-anticipated release of Awkwafina’s drama “The Farewell” in mainland China has been delayed. The hold-up came just two days before the film’s scheduled outing this Friday. The film, about a Chinese American family who are hiding their aging matriarch’s cancer diagnosis from her, was scheduled to be released in China some four months after [...]

  • Adam Driver poses for photographers upon

    Film News Roundup: Adam Driver Honored With SFFILM Award

    In today’s film news roundup, Adam Driver is honored, Robocop will be reborn and Hola Mexico Film Festival and The Montalbán Theatre are teaming for a screening series for potential Oscar nominees. HONORS SFFILM has selected Adam Driver as the recipient of the SFFILM award for acting, formerly the Peter J. Owens Award. Driver, who [...]

  • Paul Downs Colaizzo

    'Perfect Nanny' Movie Adaptation Taps 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Director (EXCLUSIVE)

    Leila Slimani’s critically acclaimed, international bestseller “The Perfect Nanny” — aka “Chanson Douce” — is coming to the big screen. Legendary has closed a deal for Paul Downs Colaizzo to adapt and direct the English-language adaptation. Legendary will produce the pic alongside Pascal Caucheteux of Why Not Productions and Philippe Godeau of Pan-Européenne. The story [...]

  • Sterling K. BrownVariety and Women in

    Sterling K. Brown to Narrate Disney Plus Documentary 'One Day at Disney' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Sterling K. Brown is set to lend his voice to the upcoming Disney Plus feature documentary “One Day at Disney,” Variety has learned exclusively. “One Day at Disney” will highlight the people who work on some of Disney’s most beloved stories. The film will highlight 10 specific people and their role at Disney through the lens [...]

  • Mehrdad Oskouei on IDFA Opener ‘Sunless

    Mehrdad Oskouei on IDFA Opener ‘Sunless Shadows’: 'Giving a Voice to Voiceless People'

    Documentary film festival IDFA opened Wednesday with Iranian director Mehrdad Oskouei’s “Sunless Shadows,” the latest in a series of films about incarcerated teens in his homeland. Developed with help from the IDFA Bertha Fund, the film takes viewers inside an Iranian juvenile detention center, where a group of underage girls are serving time for very [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content