David Bowie often cited some of the greatest pioneers of the cinematic medium as primary sources of inspiration. He never failed to iterate the importance of the role that cinema played in his life as well as his professional career which became increasingly evident as he ventured into the world of cinema as an actor.
While the music icon had once stated that he was going to renounce rock and roll in order to become a screenwriter or a filmmaker, Bowie’s music itself had a fundamentally cinematic quality. That’s exactly why the use of his songs in movies by pioneers such as David Lynch and Wes Anderson contributes to the creation of a unique cinematic experience.
Part of the reason behind the cinematic elements of Bowie’s music is that he was directly influenced by the films of visual poets such as Jean Cocteau and Luis Buñuel among others. In fact, Fritz Lang’s expressionist opus Metropolis impressed Bowie to such an extent that he tried to name The Man Who Sold the World after it initially and adopted the visual style for his Diamond Dogs live tour.
One of the filmmakers who inspired Bowie to strive for new artistic heights was none other than the director of enduring classics such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Barry Lyndon. It was through Stanley Kubrick’s work that Bowie managed to find the proper articulation of what he wanted to achieve as a creator, leading him to unimaginable revelations.
Many believed that Bowie’s iconic Space Oddity was inspired by the moon landings but he later clarified that wasn’t the case at all: “It was written because of going to see the film 2001, which I found amazing,” he commented. “I was out of my gourd anyway, I was very stoned when I went to see it, several times, and it was really a revelation to me. It got the song flowing.”
It is incredibly easy to see why Bowie was moved by 2001 to such an extent but the Kubrick film that influenced him to a greater extent was actually the controversial 1971 crime film A Clockwork Orange. While it was dismissed by many critics and cultural commentators for its explicit take on societal delinquency and violence, Bowie found reflections of the landscape of rock in its dystopian vision.
For The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Bowie borrowed from A Clockwork Orange’s central figure Alex – a juvenile deviant who was rectified by the state. In addition to using the film’s score to preface his live performance, Bowie also referenced the linguistic registers of A Clockwork Orange in Girl Loves Me from his final studio album Blackstar.