David Bowie

Cover of David Bowie’s Hunky Dory (RCA, 1971).

AT THE END of Lars von Trier’s Dogville (2003), David Bowie’s 1975 “Young Americans” plays in full for more than five minutes, under a roll of still photographs of American misery, with blocks of black-and-white scenes from the 1930s (Dorothea Lange and Ben Shahn and more) alternating with present-day color. It’s a typical von Trier cheap shot, as exploitative of the song as of the fierce story Nicole Kidman’s face has just told. But the music escapes; it sucks you in. You are hearing, even watching, the song more than you’re watching von Trier’s sour montage. The rush of the sometimes all-but-hysterical singing takes over, and you want to know how the song’s story turns out, whether the young Americans are going to make it—make it into history and out of the trap history has set for them. At the end, everything comes to a head with one great shout:

Ain’t there one damn song

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