David Bowie Rare and Unseen

David Bowie Rare and Unseen
Finding rare and unseen footage of your favourite artists these days is a piece of piss, Just pop their name into YouTube and you'll be instantly treated to a litany of talk show appearances, awkward video blog interviews and fashion trends the artist would prefer left forgotten to time. So, the idea of actually paying for a hodgepodge of interview and live clips from across an artist's career is about as savvy a marketing move as selling CDs in a store these days. But the success of the Rare and Unseen series lies not as much in the footage its producers unearth as in how it's presented to the audience. Case in point: David Bowie, the subject of the series' latest instalment, has been kicking around the music world for over 40 years. There's no shortage of footage of the man. The interview that makes up the bulk of the DVD finds Bowie in Los Angeles, speaking via a primitive satellite hook-up with British talk show host Russell Harty, circa his 1976 transformation into the Thin White Duke via Station to Station and the film The Man Who Fell to Earth. Both Bowie and Harty attempt to outwit one another, barely hiding their disdain beneath a mask of British politeness. But the interview is inter-cut with a conversation Bowie had with NewMusic host Avi Lewis in 1999 while launching his Earthling album. With Lewis, Bowie is calm and relaxed, ready to discuss any facet of his long career, including his and Iggy Pop's escape to Berlin to kick drugs not long after the Harty interview. It's both Bowie's drug-enhanced egomania during this period and the gross misunderstanding of Bowie's various onstage characters by the media that make this so fascinating. (This misunderstanding would continue well into the '80s.) Similar questions about Bowie-the-spectacle hounded him even in the lead up to 1987's Glass Spiders tour. While hardly essential, David Bowie: Rare and Unseen does a great job providing context to Bowie's long and, at times, confounding career. (MVD)