art david bowie

Forget About Reviewing The Forest: It's Bad and David Bowie's Gone

Monday, January 11, 2016 Rob Samuelson

The Forest is a movie that lies to you at every turn. It breaks its own rules moments after setting them. It presents mysteries without giving answers to them. It has the same garish-grayish sheen as a luxury car commercial. It's a throwaway piece of junk dropped at a time when Hollywood knows nobody is paying attention. It's insulting not only to your intelligence but also to your short-term memory. If you're into quantifying and star ratings, it's a dismal one-and-a-half stars for me. So let's talk about David Bowie instead.

The musician who meant so much to so many died yesterday “surrounded by his family after a courageous 18 month battle with cancer,” his official Facebook page announced in the middle of the night. After about half an hour of fretfully checking Twitter and other sources for any information refuting what seemingly everyone agreed was obviously a hoax, Bowie's son, Moon director Duncan Jones, closed the door on all that.

Very sorry and sad to say it's true,” Jones confirmed on Twitter. Along with the rest of the world, my heart sank. Despite my tightening throat, my mind raced with possibilities. “He just released the new album [the melancholy, forward-thinking Blackstar], so maybe it's all a stunt!” I rationalized. “Hell, he killed off an alter ego once before – he may as well do it for Bowie Prime, as well.” It was not possible that the man whose music had provided the soundtrack to every time I have ever fallen in love – romantic, platonic, whatever – could die.

Alas, he can. Bowie, the chameleon, the star, the space alien, is gone. And it sucks. It sucks in a way that it typically doesn't when an icon dies. It's partly because, only two days before he died, that Blackstar album was released. It's just as vital as anything he had done in the last few decades. He had not lost steam or devolved into a shell of his former self like other mere humans. He sounded as invigorated as he had on the Berlin albums in the late '70s, tossing jazz and industrial harshness, bitterness and bemusement, excitement and forgiveness into those too-short 40 minutes.

It might be a step too far to say he went out at the absolute top of his game, but that's only because his legacy is as important as any cultural icon of the last century, and maybe any century. Just for a second, ignore the performance art, the fashion, the acting, the gender-bending blasts of positive be-yourself-no-matter-what-anyone-else-thinks energy, and everything else Bowie did. Focus solely on his musical output. His oeuvre is on par with The Beatles and – as a matter of personal taste, at least – far exceeds anything by Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, or any of the other all timers.

He was, no matter which persona or costume or musical style or art form he used in the moment, fundamentally himself. Unlike the disposable lead-in to this remembrance, he did not lie. He was excited and passionate about the things he put forth into the world. Sure, he had the “detached rock star” aspect to his public persona, an unknowability shrouded in mythology and the exotic. But that stuff was all ancillary – fascinatingly so, but not necessarily essential to what made him special. The work was Bowie, full of emotional truth and transcendent craft. Listening to each album, track by track, you hear him buzzing with thoughts about subversion of the ordinary, pleasure, kindness, the cruelty and grace of humanity – at least until they make way for the homo-superior.

He was Socrates. He was Mozart. He was Cleopatra. David Bowie's life will be studied, dissected, poorly emulated for centuries to come. And we get to say we were on the planet at the same time.  

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