Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten, or unknown film and TV credits, continues this week with works featuring David Bowie.
The Hunger (1983)
Directed by Tony Scott
Screenplay by Ivan Davis and Michael Thomas
Based on the Novel by Whitley Strieber
For those inclined to do so, The Hunger has plenty to critique. The scenes are slow, moody, and cloaked in shadows. The sex is between actors exalted for their beauty, with fetishized bloodletting included. The editing leaves threads disparate for viewers to decide how they relate. Spliced together, it’s the sort of editing that makes some bonkers but is fascinating and necessary—the close interplay between music and scene cuts preventing The Hunger’s violence and sex from becoming gratuitous. I’ve always found the use of food terms to describe visuals a little off kilter but this is definitely a film that puts scrumptious imagery first. The difference is that it doesn’t put scrumptious imagery last.
The Hunger has substance. People are going to accuse it of being an empty shell that looks pretty, which some films that go for a more abstract style are, but these concerns should fall away over the course of the opening sequence (or The Hunger probably isn’t the movie for you).
Starting at a night club, where Miriam (Catherine Deneuve) and John (Bowie) are scoping the place for two people to bring home, the film cuts to Bauhaus’ Peter Murphy singing “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” long after they leave. When the couples separate to have sex, Miriam and John murder their new dates using matching necklace knifes. You start questioning whether you can enjoy a film that is so visually interesting but glamorizes serial killers but they’re not serial killers. They’re vampires, and if I had really listened to Bauhaus’ song lyrics I would’ve gotten that from the get-go.
Then there’s the cut to the murderous lab monkey, who takes out his girlfriend at the same time Miriam and John are taking out their one night stands. Dr. Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon) doesn’t know what got into him. Both subjects in her study on the aging process, the monkeys had been in love but after a bout of sleeplessness the male lashed out. John hasn’t been sleeping lately. Is he being compared to the monkey because of his latest murder, or is his love, Miriam, next? And what of his sudden rapid aging, hair falling out in his hands while watching Tom and Jerry on the tele?
Verdict: Buried Treasure
Playing off of their timelessness, Deneuve and Bowie are dream casting, validating the film’s weirder juxtapositions with reserved, European high drama. As Bowie’s features get hidden behind make-up, you lose his recognition but there’s a freedom to make-up, too, which he’s rarely granted outside of music.
Death avoidance is a theme in many Bowie films because Bowie, like vampires, was supposed to live forever. That he stars in the vampire movie where that guarantee gets taken away, not because of a wooden stake, but aging, is a crummy coincidence.
Check back tomorrow for Bowie’s performance as a different, popular artist.