David Bowie: the Calm Before the Storm: Under Review 1969 to 1971

David Bowie: the Calm Before the Storm: Under Review 1969 to 1971
5
David Bowie's the type of artist whose career has been examined and dissected ever since the chameleon-like star first set his platform boots upon the stage. So, a documentary purporting to explore his "early" years has its work cut out if the filmmakers hope to break new ground. Unfortunately, this unauthorized DVD does little beyond glossing over what we already know. David Bowie was an aspiring folkie in '60s London, essentially doing anything to make it big, when he stumbled into a prescient hit with "Space Oddity" shortly after Neil Armstrong's moon landing. The doc does a decent enough job covering this territory, digging up photos, footage and characters from the least Bowie-esque period of the singer's career. Oddly, "The Laughing Gnome," a would-be novelty hit that failed to chart, is completely ignored despite its infamy in Bowie lore. Rather than lingering in this period (even as Bowie's least explored career phase, it still provided inspiration for parts of Todd Haynes fictional glam flick, Velvet Goldmine), we move into better-known parts of Bowie's history, namely the trio of pre-Ziggy records: Space Oddity, The Man Who Sold the World and Hunky Dory. The three albums are somewhat lumped together, as requisite talking heads espouse the virtues of these records over Ziggy (a narrative long since established in both music journalist and Bowie fan circles). For a film purporting to stick to the quiet early years, The Calm Before the Storm dives headfirst into The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, now four records deep into the Bowie we all know and love, before ending after a scant 65 minutes. There have been many cheap cash-grab music docs in recent years, some of which are actually quite good. This isn't one of them. Too inside for nubes yet short on substance for the die-hards, The Calm Before the Storm is best left to the discount bin. (Sexy Intellectual)