My oh my. Like I imagine quite a few of you, I’m rather shaken. The death of David Bowie is too sudden and too sad to comprehend.
Amongst all the sadness, though, there is a distinct joy. A celebration of an utterly unique figure who gave his whole life to good things. To the creation of music, to glorious, ever-changing style, to the pursuit – and the giving – of pleasure.
His passing reminds us what we share, through the immense number of people who love him. There are few musicians whose work has been used as often in film and television; the artists you love, well, they love him too.
Here is a Top 5 of David Bowie songs in films. Today is sad, because it feels like he is no longer with us. But turn on the radio or put on a film, and you will know that he still is, and always will be.
5. Queen Bitch – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
If you’re looking for proof that Bowie is eternal, look no further than The Life Aquatic, a film soundtracked mainly by covers of his songs by Brazilian songwriter Seu Jorge. A native of the Rio favelas, Jorge gave his own delicate take on Bowie’s classics, showing just how versatile the great man’s music is. The film’s crowning glory is performed by Bowie himself, as Wes Anderson’s motley band of freaks march back to the Belafonte to the beat of Queen Bitch, a song that is pure energy.
4. Let’s Dance – Zoolander
Of course someone with that much charisma and style was a great actor. He had parts in Nolan’s The Prestige and Henson’s Labyrinth, but my lasting memory of Bowie on screen is as himself, MC-ing the walk-off that is the film’s most memorable scene. It only uses the second-long sound of Bowie stomping out the title, but that is all you need to feel his spirit. If you ever feel you’re taking life too seriously, just watch this.
3. Modern Love – Frances Ha
David Bowie was made for dancing. In clubs, in bars or just on your own down the street, as we see Frances doing in Noah Baumbach’s 2012 comedy on Catherine St in New York. Frances is a perennial under-achiever struggling to keep it together, but when Bowie is playing she is magic and light and happiness. It doesn’t matter where you are in life or what you are doing. Dance like you’re David Bowie.
2. Under Pressure – The Girl Next Door
From Queen to Vanilla Ice to endless YouTube mash-ups, this song underscores pop culture like no other. It opens The Girl Next Door, a film that I love to this day in part for its great soundtrack. We find Matthew Kidman struggling to find anything he will remember from high school. It says so much about the Thin White Duke that no-one would have such a struggle about this song or him. The memories are all around us.
1. Heroes – The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Heroes has been used more than any other Bowie track, and with good reason. It sounds new every time you hear it, wrapping you in a wall of sound that both reassures and rouses. I’ve gone for its appearances in Stephen Chbosky’s coming-of-age drama because this film gets what Bowie’s music, and any art we love, does. The film sums it up best:
‘…you helped me. Even if you didn’t know what I was talking about or know someone who’s gone through it, you made me not feel alone. Because I know there are people who say all these things don’t happen. And there are people who forget what it’s like to be 16 when they turn 17. I know these will all be stories someday. And our pictures will become old photographs. We’ll all become somebody’s mom or dad. But right now these moments are not stories. This is happening. I am here and I am looking at her. And she is so beautiful. I can see it. This one moment when you know you’re not a sad story. You are alive, and you stand up and see the lights on the buildings and everything that makes you wonder. And you’re listening to that song and that drive with the people you love most in this world. And in this moment I swear, we are infinite.’
Love to you all, and thank you, David Bowie x