Since his passing in 2016 the featured documentary has been highly anticipated, and now the first trailer has been released. Since the announcement HBO has revealed very little on what to expect, but now, finally, the curtain had been lifted on this icon of contemporary pop music. Focusing on the artist’s final years, David Bowie: The Last Five Years presents a nuanced look at the evolution of Bowie’s music as told through archival footage and interviews with the musical legend’s bandmates. Largely focused on Bowie’s final two albums, The Next Day and Blackstar, the film also explores his musical, Lazarus, which he began developing in the midst of his illness.
The piece debuts via HBO on January 8, two years after the icon’s death on what would have been his 71st birthday.
HBO’s documentary has captured Bowie’s last run of creativity, in which he spent years planning an incredible multitude of music and art, some to release posthumously, before passing away of liver cancer in 2016. The clip also teases an array of archival footage, photographs and interview clips. In one, Bowie lays out a tenet of his artistic philosophy: “Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about at the right place to do something exciting.”
It’s doubtful that a rock star has ever aestheticized his own death the way that Bowie did on “Black Star” (or in “Lazarus”). But even here, the vantage was that of an embrace. The way Bowie imagined it, Major Tom was heading back to space, to a deeper part of it than he’d ever known. Death, to Bowie, would not be an end; it would just be another one of his changes.
The Last Five Years features interviews with the performer’s bandmates, as well as longtime producer and friend Tony Visconti. The work was directed by Francis Whately, who also followed the star’s career from 1970 to 1975 in a previous documentary. Below is a recorded interview with Francis in relation to the new documentary:
The first trailer is an inspiring montage of Bowie images, citing his impact on the world and his beliefs in freedom of expression.
Whately has been a Bowie fan for years.
“I was a childhood fan, so he’s meant a lot to me since I nicked my brother’s album when I was about 10,” the director said. “I think it was Aladdin Sane and remember being shocked and excited in equal measure; shocked by the cover and delighted by the music.”
Bowie’s bandmates were key to making the film a success.
“I was worried about how I was going to make this film, because there wasn’t any material, really, except for the videos, and I didn’t think I could make a 90-minute film,” Whately said, crediting Bowie’s bandmates for their cooperation. He noted how the bands went above and beyond to help the doc come to fruition: “The Next Day band, they’d never played all of their songs live.”
Bassist Gail Ann Dorsey won’t forget Bowie.
During the audience question portion of the evening, bassist Gail Ann Dorsey, approached the mic to share her thoughts. “I feel that I had a chance to work with someone so special to everyone in the world,” she said. “I’m in a tiny minority of people who have been touched personally by his work and blessings.”
This is certainly not the only tribute and documentary that has been done since Bowie’s passing. Early this year Not Only Fashion Caffe’ was also paying Tribute to his Life and career with this remarkable Eclectic Documentary. “It’s Our Gift to the Man who changed the music.”
MENU: 00:00–02:30 – INTRO 02:30–07:58 – ABOUT ZIGGY STARDUST 07:58–14:52 – THE ELEPHANT MAN 14:52–25:26 – THE BERLIN YEARS 25:26–33:54 – ABOUT ART 33:54–37:45 – DYSFUNCTIONAL CONVERSATION 37:45–39:23 – THE PASSAGE 39:23–44:07 – DOLLAR DAYS – Video
A final note on the new documentary: The ghosts become all too real when Bowie is filming the videos for “Black Star,” which feature him as a specter with button eyes; in one, we see the vision of a spaceman, a nod to Major Tom, who’s revealed beneath his helmet to be a bejeweled skeleton. Bowie, as was widely reported at the time, confronted his own death with a kind of cleansing knowledge, and “The Last Five Years” fills in that portrait, most tellingly when the director of “Lazarus,” Ivo Van Hove, recalls how Bowie informed him over Skype that he’d learned his cancer treatments weren’t working and that he was “probably going to die.” Van Hove observes that for a split second, as Bowie said that, a flicker of fear passed across his face; then it was gone. Bowie finished his work on the stage show, complete with a trance-like version of “Heroes” that soared into the stratosphere. “The Last Five Years” captures the gorgeous sunset of a rock god, but it’s no mournful elegy. It’s a shivery celebration of Bowie’s genius audacity and how it never let it up.