There was different energy behind David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust that ensured you were in for a whole other wild experience unlike any before it. Director D.A. Pennebaker keeps the mystique and wild tone of Ziggy Stardust alive from the opening title and then is quick to jump right in to the line outside Ziggy Stardust’s concert zooming in on the type of lovable oddities and weird wonders that worshiped Bowie and his adored his music, bringing us in to the full arena of the kind of minds and hearts David Bowie touched.
“Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” is set during a farewell concert in 1972 where director Pennebaker set to film a short video at first, but ended up filming a grand concert and feature film. Among Bowie’s fan base you weren’t really a weirdo or a freak, but just one of many original and unique entities that happened to share a love for David Bowie, who made weirdness less scary and more daring and exciting. When we see Bowie, he’s preparing for the concert while being painted in to his character and it’s a mesmerizing experience. This is especially true when he performs, consistently changing appearances and costumes for his audience. Ziggy, on stage, is neither man nor woman, human or rock god, but just a being who transcends any real label. Bowie’s performance as Ziggy Stardust is as enthusiastic and exciting as ever, and he puts passions in to this final performance.
The fans love what Ziggy Stardust has to offer, with Pennebaker panning in to the audience and cutting to strobe lights showing endless views of faces that are excited, awe inspired and very at home among Bowie’s children. Stardust and the Spiders from Mars spare the time to play some interesting favorites and renditions of some of Bowie’s bigger hits like “All the Young Dudes,” and “White Light White Heart,” while also reveling in some solos from Bowie’s band, all of whom are given their own moments to perform for the audience. Mick Ronson especially gets to have a few solos that are more suited for hardcore Bowie fans than anything. “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” is more of a full concert film than anything else. It doesn’t really make a statement, nor has a particular narrative or conflict around it. You can accuse it being just a concert, but you can’t ever accuse it of being boring. Bowie keeps the movie out of the doldrums of being just a home video, and it’s a sight that deserves viewing for fans of rock and roll.