Stardust stars musician/actor Johnny Flynn as David Bowie circa 1971, when he embarked on his first American tour. The film covers a tough period for Bowie, where he was creatively fruitful (The Man Who Sold the World and Hunky Dory came out in this era) but critically and commercially bereft, still riding on the success of the two-year-old hit “Space Oddity.” Marc Maron plays an American publicist who encourages him to “be someone else.” The film covers the creation of the Ziggy Stardust alter-ego that made Bowie world famous.
The problem with this film, which received mixed reviews after screening at the San Diego International Film Festival earlier this month (the NME critic gave it 4 out of 5 stars), is that the Bowie estate did not grant rights to use his music. Whereas previous unofficial Bowie biopic Velvet Goldmine (1998), facing the same issue, assembled an all-star crew of musicians to cover Bowie-adjacent glam rock from the 1970s and write new songs in that style (the soundtrack is fantastic), this one features Flynn singing covers of songs that Bowie covered in that era, such as “My Death” by Jacques Brel and “I Wish You Would” by the Yardbirds.
No Bowie biopic is complete without the music, but how much this affects Stardust as a film remains to be seen. It comes out via IFC Films on Nov. 25, on VOD. Watch the trailer here:
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