David Bowie’s performance in The Hunger, Tony Scott’s stylish vampire saga, suddenly has a newfound sense of poignancy after the shock of this week’s news. That 1983 movie was slated by many on its release, but it left an indelible mark on the minds of millions, not least because we saw the rock legend give such a memorable turn.
Though for me his greatest will always be Thomas Jerome Newton in Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth, (he remains one of the finest screen aliens in history), it was inevitable he’d be cast as a vampire at some point. With that pale skin, those chiselled cheekbones and youthful appearance, it was easy to believe Bowie had made a Faustian pact at some point.
But watching him age a lifetime before our eyes, thanks to the wizardry of make up artist Dick Smith, meant there was a sort of closure denied us this week.
Image: MGM/The Richard Shepherd Company. Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie in Tony Scott’s The Hunger
At 69 he was obviously taken far too early, like director Tony Scott.
I take some solace from his brother Ridley’s classic Blade Runner “The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and you have burned so very, very brightly,” line.
But we want our rock gods to burn twice as bright and live forever.
Bowie fell to Earth in 1976, but kept rising again and again.
Our hunger for his work was insatiable.
He set trends, we followed and by the time they were mainstream, his latest creation was showing us the future.
Like many weaned on his work in the early 1970s, I keep thinking I’ll wake up from this dream and he’ll be alive, well and just working on his next project.
But while the world is a darker place all of a sudden, that bright, shining legacy is extraordinary.
Some artists dream of creating a few good songs. He created the soundtrack to our lives.
Back in 1984, during a school exchange trip to Oregon, I watched his Jazzin’ For Blue Jean video every night on MTV. Little wonder that when it came time to go clubbing in fancy dress, I went as his besuited character (and made up my exchange host’s daughter and fellow clubber as his flamboyant alter ego).
He wasn’t as big a hit as Ziggy Stardust or Aladdin Sane, but that Bowie creation (Screaming Lord Byron) will always be a favourite because he touched a memory chord.
Watching it again, The Hunger has stood up remarkably well. Its crisp, stylish visuals mixed with the problem of Bowie’s character’s sudden mortality makes it suddenly very relevant.
We all hoped Bowie would live forever, but the sight of him prematurely aged in The Hunger is a remarkable achievement and an idea of the greatest rock star of our generation at the age he deserved to be. (He was supposed to be 110 in the movie according to Tony Scott).
However, it’s also incredibly heartbreaking and proves harder to watch than ever. Fans wil shed fresh tears with every screening.
At the risk of stating the obvious, in a world of advertising hype, David Bowie was the real deal. A genuine original whose work and memory will live forever.
Rest in peace.