Yentob and Deller talk Bowie
By Charlie Phillips 03 September, 2012
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about my bubbling excitement for Bowiefest, London's tribute to the greatest man of the 20th Century (don't argue). It happened this weekend and it surpassed those high expectations, especially in the closing event at which Jeremy Deller interviewed Alan Yentob about the making of Cracked Actor - in Deller's words, Bowie's Oscar-winning performance, despite being a documentary.
You can look back at some of the manic excitement for that panel and the general festival on the Bowiefest Twitter Feed, referencing Bowie's bottom and all other crucial Bowie obsessive subjects. The ICA was packed with fans of the man of all ages and shapes, which is the way with this reclusive person on whom you can project anything you like. The fandom was especially cranked-up in the post-Cracked Actor Q&A where the audience asked delightfully geeky questions such as what room the "Bowie Watches Films" sections were shot in (Answer - David Puttnam's studio in Hollywood), who else was in the car in the famous "Fly in My Milk" section (Answer - only Coco Schwab, the driver, and Yentob and his crew of two), and why Earl Slick and the other musicians on the tour didn't get more screen time (Answer - Yentob was making a doc about Bowie alone and his post-Ziggy personal demons, so cutting to a musician happily noodling on his guitar would have broken the spell)
However, the most questions were around the existence or otherwise of Yentob's rushes - he doesn't know where they are, or so he claims anyway. The tantalising possibility of one day seeing Bowie's entire Hollywood Bowl '75 concert, plus hours of him delving in his costume chest, traveling in cars and drinking milk, is too much to bear for lots of Bowie fans. Equally, just as unbearable would be if they'd been destroyed or lost, which is sadly probably the more likely option. But if they are out there somewhere, Yentob said half-jokingly that they could be released into the public domain and everyone could cut their own Bowie '75 to match their own picture of him, It'd be perfect - like Bowie cutting up lines of text in one of his more troubled moments in the film, or like the way all his fans imagine him to be a mythical jigsaw creation of a million cool influences, we could all recut our own Bowie doc.
It probably won't happen, but in the absence of any new music or film from Bowie imminently (or maybe ever), it's a good thing to play with in your imagination, isn't it? Though we might not have to entirely imagine a new Bowie on-screen presence of sorts because Yentob also hinted at making the definitive retrospective of Bowie at some point. I'm not sure I like that idea - there's a mass of Bowie videos on youtube, themselves a brilliant multi-vocal retrospective, some of which are amazingly peculiar, and we can feel like we all own them and dance around to them.
Whatever happens with the next chapter of Bowie on Film, it probably can't compare to the opening night of the festival, with a packed cinema singing along and whooping to the final Ziggy Stardust show in Pennebaker's classic. A special communal music doc experience that people left with very big smiles on their faces.
Well done Bowiefest, you made a lot of people very happy!