December 7, 2006

DVD Review: David Bowie Under Review 1976-1979: The Berlin Trilogy

If you like David Bowie and suffer from insomnia, this may be the DVD for you. It is targeted to a very narrow demographic. If you are a fan of Bowie and have a thirst for everything bearing his name you can get your hands on, definitely rush out for this. If you have an interest in getting some deeper information, going beyond the albums in question, and have a high tolerance for boredom, this is for you. If you are a casual fan, or who may be interested in the creative process, this is not for you. I like Bowie, and this did succeed in making me more interested in expanding my Bowie listening beyond the usual suspects, but beyond that, it has a short lifespan.

I cannot claim any deep knowledge of David Bowie, his history, or his creative process. At one point in my early stage of musical discovery, he was one of those guys I just would not listen to, if for no other reason than I did not want to. I started listening to Bowie when I heard "I'm Afraid of Americans." From there, I picked up some more of his recent albums, and then the two disk best of, and it was official, I love the music created by this man. Listening to him opened my eyes to a larger world of music, and helped me to move beyond my purely rock and metal world. I opened to a more artful world of music. I picked up this DVD in a hope of continuing my musical education. Sadly, it caused me to prematurely nod off to dreamland.

In order to hold an audience's attention, and potentially bring in a wider and more varied audience, a documentary must be made interesting. It is not often that content alone is enough to keep someone invested for a feature length runtime. A documentary, in order to be truly successful, must bring content into contact with style. This style doesn't need to amount to much, but editing style, graphics and multimedia integration, plus well performed narration are integral to the final work. This program does not bring anything to the table other than uninspired graphics, dry narration, and a progression of talking heads. While the heads may be giving some interesting information, I was struggling to keep my eyelids up.

The content covers an era that I know very little of. It is following his chameleon character phase, after Ziggy, Major Tom, and the rest, after the glam and the world tours. This is when Bowie took up residence in Berlin and began his long running relationship with Brian Eno. It was a period where David did some more experimental work, playing the fringe of pop. All I was really able to take away from this is that I want to get my hands on the music and listen to it rather than some very dry talking heads that I have no idea who they are, or why they are important.

Audio/Video. The quality doesn't do anything to help their case. They are not bad, but they are certainly uninspired. It is presented in a 4:3 ratio, and was clearly shot on video. The lighting of the various subjects is uneven, some are dark, some are light, but this is more to do with the original shooting rather than the transfer. The audio is plain old stereo, not even Dolby Digital, it has a flat and lifeless aura to it. Overall, it is a lifeless product.

Extras. There are a couple of extras here, but nothing worth cheering about. There is a brief four minutes on Bowie post-Berlin, which could have just been tacked on as a post script to the main feature. Also included is a text quiz of Bowie in this period, it follows the same lifeless pattern of the rest of the disk. Finally, we get text biographies of the people involved and an ad for a couple other unauthorized Bowie titles.

Bottomline. I feel letdown by this lackluster title. I truly hoped for something of interest on this enigmatic artist, someone I feel is still on top of his game. Instead, I had bad flashbacks to a few other unauthorized disks I reviewed for the likes of Metallica, Green Day, and Eminem, not very esteemed company (I refer to the disks, not the artists). Skip this, go get the music instead.

Not Recommended.


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