THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976)

PrintE-mail Written by John Higgins

A critic once cruelly stated that if David Bowie could have tried to act his way out of a paper bag, he would have died of suffocation. Not that we want to disrespect the dead, but his cinematic legacy is not as solvent as his musical one and at times it is a little hit and miss whenever you come to any of Bowie's filmography, either in a repeat viewing or a first time, as we did with the film we're about to review.

Bowie was a true enigma whatever he did and at times his films were (and still are) both frustrating and satisfying in their content. The best of them, MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. LAWRENCE (1983) and LABYRINTH (1986), were the right blend and well suited to what he was capable of. That said, I am sure there are fans out there who will doubtlessly bring up other films of his career to agree to disagree.

The Man Who Fell To Earth, Nicolas Roeg’s 1976 adaptation of a novel by Walter Tevis, has grown to become a cult classic amongst both sci-fi and Bowie fans. This new 4K restoration is a crisp and clear opportunity to sense the artistic and stylistic intent within.

Bowie plays an alien, Thomas Jerome Newton, who has come to Earth to replenish the depleted water stocks of his home planet. He has brought along advanced technology to patent many inventions and becomes a Bill Gates-like figure as part of a conglomerate, World Enterprises, aided by attorney Oliver Farnsworth (Buck Henry). He strikes up a relationship with a girl, Mary-Lou (Candy Clark) and begins to immerse himself amongst American culture, before his secret is revealed and a dark fate awaits him…..

Although The Man Who Fell To Earth remains one of the truly visual stimulants of the 1970s (and will certainly attract many fans old and new who are keen to discover and re-discover the legacy and power that Bowie had over the creative world and audience)  it has become a rather bemusing and flat emotional experience which can be interpreted as a post-psychedelic analysis of disharmony, or a potent comment on the rise of Corporate America. I am not critical of any movie that does attempt to bring a new perspective and vision and perhaps a second or third viewing will reveal the essence and impact of Roeg’s film.

Part of the problem is Bowie himself, who stutters his way through the role and seems misplaced in it. Given his obsession thematically through songs like Space Oddity, Life on Mars and Starman, at first glance, he seemed to be the right choice, but what may be expressed perfectly well in a three-minute song doesn’t quite translate as well over 138 minutes in the cinema. Support-wise, Candy Clark, Rip Torn and Buck Henry are perfectly cast in their respective roles.

The key strength of the film, which is faultless, lies in its cinematography and contrast, capturing New Mexico in its sparse splendour.

THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR:  NICHOLAS ROEG / SCREENPLAY: PAUL MAYERSBERG / STARRING: DAVID BOWIE, RIP TORN, CANDY CLARK, BUCK HENRY / RELEASE DATE: 24TH OCTOBER
 


Suggested Articles:
Farren Blackburn has a genre history as long as your arm – he’s directed episodes of Daredevil,
Lou (Lyonne) is a self-destructively hard partying trailer dweller who, when not occasionally workin
In which J.K. Rowling abandons prose in order to take full control of the cinematic Potter-verse, Fa
Released in the aftermath of British Film Year 1985 and one of three films produced by the Goldcrest
scroll back to top

Comments  

 
0 #1 Paul Wilson 2016-08-25 12:55
How rubbishy is this review? The writer makes various criticisms then concludes the film is "faultless". He tells us he "I am not critical of any film that brings a new perspective" while doing just that. Oh, and he thinks David Bowie is the weak link in what is largely regarded as his one truly great role. Where are you getting these fools from, Starburst??
Quote
 

Add comment

Security code
Refresh

Other articles in DVD / Blu-ray Reviews

SHUT IN 27 March 2017

ANTIBIRTH 26 March 2017

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM 26 March 2017

THE MISSION 26 March 2017

SEOUL STATION 25 March 2017

EXCALIBUR 25 March 2017

SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION 22 March 2017

THE STORY OF SIN 20 March 2017

ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE 20 March 2017

THE CHAMBER 20 March 2017

- Entire Category -

Sign up today!
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner
Banner