Directed by Julien Temple for Nitrate Filus Limlted
Screen play by Terry Johnson
Conceived by David Bowie
'What we're doing here is bringing back the talkies" - David Bowie - 9th August 1984
In Jazzin' For Blue Jean, David Bowie, Julien Temple and Terry Johnson breathe new life into the concept of the short feature. Nominally a promotional video for Bowie's forthcoming single 'Blue Jean', it is an uncompromising rejection of just about every aspect of the standard approach to selling pop by the yard. Rather than add to the profusion of hi-tech, mock-surreal pop videos prevalent in the '8Os, Bowie, Temple and Johnson have drawn their inspiration from the classic short features of the 1950s.
Running for 22 minutes, it features Bowie's song as little more than a set-piece background to the action. Its principal focus is the saga of Vic (David Bowie) a young hopeful with two left feet whose only means of enticing the girl of his dreams (Louise Scott) to go out with him is to pretend that he can introduce her to rock star Screamin' Lord Byron (David Bowie), the last word in dazzling and mysterious glam- rock legends.
Jazzin' For Blue Jean follows the hapless Vic through his fumbling attempts to choose an outfit for a night on the town to gain admittance to the club where the star is performing and to crash (literally!) into the Great Man's dressing-room to plead with Screamin' to help him win his beloved's admiration (or even a single civil word).
Despite enough rejections to keep the average loser depressed for a month Vic reaches his goal: he and his dreamboat are seated at one of the finest tables in the house, champagne is served and Screamin' Lord Byron does his act. Finally, the club is empty and just as even the unsinkable Vic is about to lose hope (and his hard-hearted companion), there is a stir backstage. The star emerges, painted and powdered and clad in all his finery, and makes straight for their table
In his dual role, Bowie scores two memorable direct hits. As Vic, he creates a characterisation which is a perfect embodiment of the classic Little Man of the early cinema reincarnated in '8Os London, and as Screamin' Lord Byron flamboyant and magnetic on stage but a cowering wreck in his dressing room - he wickedly and memorably satirises both his own past and the fantasies and illusions which have been created around him. In his previous acting roles (in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, The Hunger, The Man Who Fell To Earth and his celebrated Broadway run in The Elephant Man) Bowie demonstrated a formidable gift for depicting characters who were superhuman, supernatural, alien or apart in same way from the normal run of humanity. As Vic, he displays an un-suspected gift for comedy, and a ready eye and ear for the comic aspects of the minutae of daily life.
Bowie's collaborator in this precedent-breaking venture is Julien Temple, the 30-year-old director who upset the conventional notions of the rock movie with The Sex Pistols' feature The Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle (1979) and who commences shooting next year on the eagerly-awaited adaptation of Colin Maclnnes' crucial novel of British youth in the '50s Absolute Beginners. He has also worked extensively in television, and established himself as the most acute and innovative director of pop promos in Britain, working with artists such as The Rolling Stones, Culture Club, The Kinks and ABC, for whom he created the feature-length special Mantrap.