Culture

Review: Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: A film retrospective

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KCOM purchasing consultant Dave Emerton reviews Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: A film retrospective

10 January, 2016 - the date David Bowie passed away and left his corporeal form on Earth, breaking the hearts of millions of fans around the world, most of whom had no knowledge of the star’s declining health.

In true theatrical style, Bowie had released his final album Blackstar only two days prior. The album was quickly considered a parting gift for his fans before his death, with critics noting that most of the lyrics on the album seem to revolve around his impending death.

Fans gathered at impromptu memorials dotted around the world to remember the man who had influenced not only the music industry, but helped shape modern culture as we know it with 25 studio albums over five decades, with one particular on stage persona who defined a generation.

Dressing up in a striking costume and with his hair dyed red, Bowie premiered his alter ego Ziggy Stardust at a show in Tolworth, south-west London in 1972. Ziggy, who would become an enduring icon of the glam rock era, was joined on stage with his backing group, The Spiders from Mars.

The group was made up of Hull-born Mick Ronson and Trevor Bolder (guitar and bass guitar respectively) and Driffield-born Mick Woodmansey (drums). The show was hugely popular over the next six months, thanks to the critical success of the concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars.

Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: A film retrospective is a concert film and documentary of Bowie and his backing group at the Hammersmith Odeon in London on 3 July, 1973 in what would be a historic event. Bowie made the sudden surprise announcement that the show would be Ziggy’s last. The event was captured by American filmmaker D.A. Pennbaker.

With backstage interviews and insights into the band’s creation, the film is not exactly an easy watch with grainy video and muffled audio. The quality of this film is certainly of its time, even though it has been remastered for modern audiences, but if you can see past this, you get an insight to a time capsule from an alien world, Bowie’s world.

Ziggy and the Spiders perform classics such as Space Oddity, Changes and Moonage Daydream, as well as covers of the Rolling Stones' Let's Spend the Night Together and Lou Reed's White Light, White Heat.

The visual imagery of Bowie’s imagination comes to life with come-hither hip shaking, skimpy satin tunics, and fans that seems to hyperventilate with emotion.

Bowie’s creativity and influence can still be seen in a manner of creations, such as giant animated singing crustaceans in Disney films, artistic provocateurs such as Lady GaGa and many of the attributes we are celebrating this year in Hull.

Bowie taught us to think outside the box, believe in ourselves and have a sense of adventure. With this in mind, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: A film retrospective is a perfect addition to the UK City of Culture celebrations.

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