Absolute Bowieginners: LABYRINTH - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

Absolute Bowieginners: LABYRINTH

Chris Morley reminds me of the babe...
As Absolute Bowieginners returns from its snowy Christmas break, we now look at the film David Bowie is probably best remembered for - the Jim Henson fantasy Labyrinth, in which he took the role of Jareth, the goblin king. It was also the last film the king of the Muppets directed before he died, and 30 years later Jim's son Brian would remember his time working on the film and Bowie's involvement in the wake of his then recent 2016 passing...
“Everybody's thinking so fondly about David, and this is a weird and kind of wonderful departure he did in his career. Departure I don't know is the right word, but he was right at the top of his popularity.

It was not long after “Modern Love” and he was huge at the time, and he so enthusiastically jumped on board with this. He wrote all the songs himself, and they were great. And then he played this wonderful role where he's kind of making fun of the personality of a rock star.

He plays this overly flamboyant, spoiled rotten, self-centred King of the Goblins. He had a wonderful sense of humour, David. And he has a wonderful sense of humour all the way through. I think he knew he was kind of making fun of himself, in a fun way.”
It was also the first time Brian worked with his dear old dad!
“It wasn't, “Oh, Brian's home from boarding school. Why doesn't he help out on this?” It was, “I'm here for the whole movie with you, Dad.”

And when it comes to the puppetry, I was kind of his number two. He was concentrating on what was immediately in front of the camera and I had to get everything else going.

So we worked really closely together and I think that was a really great experience. It was the first time I could work with my dad just as two colleagues, and I found that we really, really got along well. It was a great, very trusting relationship. And that part was really great.”
Henson junior also had a say in the casting of Bowie, as his dad tried to decide between David & Michael Jackson!

From singing about taking babies - see Young Americans - to actually taking one, after teenager Sarah, as played by Jennifer Connelly wishes for little brother Toby to be taken off her hands.....

And so begins a 13-hour quest to save him before he becomes a goblin forever, a standard night for a young babysitter you might presume? And after he's defeated, the goblin Bowie turns into a barn owl & flies away in perhaps his greatest literal feat of transformation to date.

If you're wondering where you might have seen or heard similar, several critics picked up on its resemblances to both The Wizard Of Oz & Outside Over There by Maurice Sendak - the idea of a girl being transported from her home to a land governed by magic lovingly pinched from the first, the second contributing the idea of a baby being snatched by demons.

Terry Jones of Monty Python was originally approached to write the screenplay after Jim's daughter Lisa read & loved his Erik The Viking - though in his mind the finished film differs heavily from his intended take.
"I didn't feel that it was very much mine. I always felt it fell between two stories - Jim wanted it to be one thing and I wanted it to be about something else-the world, and about people who are more interested in manipulating the world than actually baring themselves at all."
Jones also suggested that Bowie's eventual casting had something to do with the change, with his original intention being not to show the Labyrinth until Sarah reaches it in the finished film. Despite his own opinion that it was the wrong direction to take, Jones nevertheless re-wrote his script to incorporate a larger part for Jareth, with Bowie's songs included.

For his part, David threatened to withdraw completely unless more humour was injected into the story! With multiple ideas and demands from a variety of different creative sources, little wonder then that in the two years between 1983 & '85 at least around 25 different treatments & scripts were written for the film, with revisions and amendments from a variety of uncredited writers including George Lucas. The result being the final shooting version was only finished mere weeks before filming was actually due to start.

After its release Labyrinth got itself mostly negative to mixed reviews from critics, though the New York Times did at least reserve praise for its puppetry - as you might expect from a Jim Henson production!
"As he did with less success in The Dark Crystal, Mr. Henson uses the art of puppetry to create visual effects that until very recently were possible to attain only with animation. The result is really quite startling.

It removes storyboard creations from the flat celluloid cartoon image and makes them three-dimensional, so that they actually come alive and interact with living people. The technique makes animation seem dull and old-fashioned by comparison."
Bowie's performance received similar praise
"The casting of Bowie can't be faulted on any count. He has just the right look for a creature who's the object of both loathing and secret desire."
However, the St Petersburg Times went completely the other way!
"Bowie forgoes acting, preferring to prance around his lair while staring solemnly into the camera. He's not exactly wooden. Plastic might be a more accurate description."
Ouch! But while it wasn't universally loved at the time, it did go on to become something of a cult classic, & a 2000 retrospective by Empire magazine considered David a big part of that appeal.
"David Bowie cuts a spooky enough figure in that fright wig to fit right in with this extraordinary menagerie of Goth Muppets. And Jennifer Connelly, still in the flush of youth, makes for an appealingly together kind of heroine."
So much so that twelve years later, as part of a Muppets special issue, four pages of Empire were given over to David, & indeed his wig - which in a sense introduced him to a whole new audience.
"Every Christmas a new flock of children comes up to me and says, 'Oh! you're the one who's in Labyrinth!'"
From magic dancing to actual magic next time out, as we finish off with one of Bowie's final film roles in The Prestige.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad