Monday, July 6, 2009

A trip to the moon

It's hard to avoid the lure of biological determinism when speaking of Moon. Its director, Duncan Jones, is David Bowie's son; just as his father cemented a reputation as a chameleon effortlessly able to weave various musical styles together, so too does Jones' film flit through the recent history of metaphysical science fiction in a stab at achieving a revealing synthesis and unique identity. (One is especially reminded of Solaris - both the Tarkovsky and Soderbergh versions, particularly through the motif of the apparition, especially important to Moon - and 2001: A Space Odyssey). But while casual Bowie listeners will readily associate his son's film with his father's first major hit, 1969's "Space Oddity" (from the album of the same name), as J. Hoberman does in his recent review, in another sense Moon parallels the 1997 platter Earthling, Bowie's undervalued effort to carve out a distinctive vision through the (even by '97) well-plumbed stylings of trip hop and techno. Although Bowie's music has, with only a few exceptions (most from the 80s), never been known for its earnestness, Earthling's richly textured but icy surfaces are distancing even for a rock star thoroughly trained in the art of surface irony. Moon's existential sci-fi feels, in its own way, just as coolly distant: Jones is more interested in playing with surface than plumbing emotional depths.