Monday, November 17, 2008

Is There Life on Mars?

The video below is 35 years old but looks like it could have been made tomorrow.

Music videos -- not just recorded concert performances, but something actually produced and performed -- were a rarity in 1973. But the ground-breaking concept was absolutely in keeping with David Bowie's "Life on Mars" from the album Hunky Dory.

To hipsters who were lucky enough to see it (where would music videos have played in 1973?) "Life on Mars" must have been a trippy, transgressive revelation. With his baby blue suit, spiky orange hair, full, perfect make-up and those disturbingly mismatched eyes, Bowie is a genteel, Technicolor alien, male and female and somehow beyond both.

But to worried parents and other concerned citizens, Bowie must have seemed the very embodiment of Everything That's Wrong With This World, a vision of the present and future that was nothing less than bizarre and more than just a little horrifying. If this is what the kids were listening to, God only knew what they were actually doing.

Today the video is a jewel whose value lies not only in its prescience, but also its difference from the quick-cut style that would begin dominating the form just ten years later. Director Mick Rock turned his technical limitations (and what must surely have been a shoestring budget) into a languorous series of close-ups that succeed by staying out of the way and letting Bowie be Bowie.

Thanks to Justin Mroz and Suzanne York for bringing this to my attention on Facebook.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This makes me nostalgic for a period of time that I was too young to remember. Strangely evocative. haunting and beautiful. Thanks for posting it.