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Rock star and pop icon David Bowie stars in this interesting sci fi yarn that shows how earths vices such as drugs and alcohol may not only current our own inhabitants but also any aliens that might arrive on our planet.
Bowie plays Thomas Jerome Newton who is an alien that arrives on earth as his own planet is facing destruction and he hopes to find a solution, in human form he soon becomes rich through business and gradually he gets seduced by the things that wealth brings such as alcohol and also he starts a relationship with a woman called Mary Lou who is played by Candy Clarke. Soon however he starts to attract the attention of the authorities with his lifestyle and soon his freedom is under threat.
Bowie is pretty good as an actor and he is more than conpetent in this rather androgenous role that he delivers, the real stand out performance for me though is Clarke whose character is very interesting and rather naive.
The film is also a visual treat and i was impressed with some of the cinematography in the film. especially at the film was made in the mid seventies so lacks the access to technology that film makers enjoy today.
Some of the themes explored in the film are quite adult in their nature and there is a fair amount of nudity and sex scenes as well so some people may find it offensive depending on your moral attitude.
Certainly a film that I found interesting to watch and I'm not a big sci fi fan yet I still enjoyed it and I would recommend it.
Thomas Jerome Newton is an alien from another planet, who comes to Earth in the hope that he can save his rapidly deteriorating planet and his family. Having arrived with nothing, he quickly builds up his finances and soon becomes a wealthy businessman, able to do anything he wants. He becomes accustomed to earthly pleasures, especially drink and sex with his lover, Mary-Lou, but his plan is still to go back home at some point. There are those that have other ideas though. It soon becomes clear to the authorities that, with his reclusive lifestyle and interest in outer space, Newton is not 'normal' and he is eventually captured so that they can do some tests on him. Will he ever manage to escape Earth and return to his home? Or is he destined to remain trapped forever?
Science fiction is my least favourite genre of film and one that I avoid if I possibly can. However, the combination of director Nicholas Roeg, responsible for Walkabout, one of my favourite films, and David Bowie, my all time favourite musician, was a little too tempting to turn down. David Bowie isn't exactly known for his acting skills - he has received very mixed opinions about his acting career - but I thought he was great in Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence and, if nothing else, I at least had the opportunity to look at him for a couple of hours. The film was made in 1976 when Bowie was arguably at the peak of his musical career and is based on a book by Walter Tevis.
I really liked David Bowie in the role of Newton. He really was a brilliant casting choice simply because he looks the part - it is very easy to imagine that he is an alien in a human body. It's probably partly to do with his different coloured eyes, but is also because of his face, which, with its high cheekbones, does look otherworldly. People often use the terms androgynous and ethereal to describe Bowie at this point in his career, and that is exactly right. The character isn't, however, asexual, as he proves with Mary-Lou. I'm not sure exactly how much Bowie was acting throughout the film though - I suspect he was being largely himself. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter, because he was more than convincing in the role, and the fact that he is so beautiful only served to make the film more watchable.
Rip Torn (that really is his surname!) is usually second on the billing as one of the top men in Newton's organisation, Nathan Bryce. However, his role is fairly secondary and his on-screen time probably amounts to about 20 minutes of the whole film. He was fine in the role, he just didn't have to do anything outstanding. He does age incredibly well during the course of the film, although that is more down to good hair and make-up than acting skills. More noticeable is Candy Clark as Mary-Lou. Mary-Lou is a simple girl who falls in love with Thomas, only to face devastation when she finds out who he really is. Clark gives a really charming performance - she is incredibly naive, but this only make her more likeable. Buck Henry plays Farnsworth, another of Newton's men - like Rip Torn he is good in the role, it's just that the role is a little dull.
As with all films I've seen by Nicholas Roeg, this film is all about the visuals, and in many ways the story is secondary. There is always so much going on, from the panning of the magnificient scenery (filmed in New Mexico), to the scenes in space, Newton's falling to earth and the many sex scenes. The story is told in a non-linear way - Newton's time on earth is chronological, but his flash-backs are not, which can be confusing at times, but somehow suits the film. And there are a series of scenes that are intercut with other scenes from other times and places, usually with something in common, which again can be a little confusing, but certainly make the film much more interesting to watch.
Considering the film was made in 1976, the special effects are very well done. Newton's transformation from a human to an alien isn't exactly high-tech, but it looks natural. And the aging processes on the other characters (Newton doesn't age at all) is excellent. Poor Mary-Lou, who turns into an alcoholic, changes from a fresh-faced beauty into a puffy-faced hag and the others all age very naturally too. The scenes in space feel a bit clumsy - basically, it is all desert, strange-shaped buildings and people in silver suits - but it was kept simple and so just about works. No doubt it could be really well done with today's technology, but for the time, they must have been impressive and are still adequate today.
There is a lot of sex (obviously simulated) and nudity in the film, which makes it inappropriate for children. We see full frontal nudity of both men and women - I was slightly disappointed to see that David Bowie's dangly bits are just as ugly as any other man's... Oh well, life is full of disappointments. The film was originally X-rated (for over 18s) and the current rating is still 18 in the UK.
Despite Bowie's skills as a musician, the decision was made to use others to write the score - John Phillips and Stomu Yamashta. I was slightly disappointed not to hear any of his music, but obviously respect his decision not to mix acting and music, or try to turn the film into the David Bowie show.
This is a special edition two disc film - the second disc is full of extras. The first is a documentary about the film, with interviews with Nicholas Roeg, the producer and other members of the production crew, as well as Candy Clark. Secondly, there's an interview with Paul Mayersberg, who wrote the screenplay. This is rather heavy, but he does discuss the lack of chronological order in the film and why they decided to tell the story that way. There's a long interview with Nicholas Roeg, focusing on his career as well as the film - it's a bit too long and dry for an extra, and is probably only interesting to those who are true film buffs. Unfortunately none of these features include an interview with David Bowie, although he is very much the topic of conversation. The rest of the features include a couple of trailers and TV adverts for the film, a DVD Rom feature and trailers for other releases - The Wicker Man, Don't Look Now and Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence.
I was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. Although it is science fiction, it isn't overly so; in fact I found the science fiction aspect secondary to the 'outsider' angle - Newton is basically a visitor to Earth and will never fit in because he is too different. It feels like a social discussion of the world's inability to accept those who don't conform to a particular pattern, and once the film finished, I felt that I had watched something worthwhile. I think fans of science fiction and/or David Bowie will enjoy it, but it is worth considering even if it doesn't sound like your cup of tea. Recommended.
The DVD is available on play.com for £6.99.
Running time: 139 minutes
The Man Who Fell To Earth is a cult 1976 British film directed by Nicholas Roeg. Thomas Jerome Newton (David Bowie) is a mysterious man who suddenly appears in the small New Mexico town of Haneyville with only a British passport and some gold rings to his name. He visits the offices of crafty New York patent attorney Oliver Farnsworth (Buck Henry) where he supplies Farnsworth with the blueprints for some extraordinary futuristic technological devices far in advance of what already exists. An exceptionally wealthy and powerful company known as World Enterprises is duly created which becomes a global leader in several areas of business, publishing, photography equipment and mineral resources. Farnsworth is largely left alone to run the company while the enigmatic Newton travels to the desert to look for suitable locations for his next project, meeting housekeeper Mary-Lou (Candy Clark) along the way, an awkward romance developing between them. Newton's ultimate goal must remain vague for the present though because he is in fact an extraterrestrial from a distant planet where his race and family are dying from a severe drought. Newton is attempting to use the capitalist system on Earth to build a spaceship but the success of World Enterprises is soon attracting some unwelcome attention...
Like many of Nicholas Roeg's films, The Man Who Fell To Earth is visually amazing and full of incredible images but deliberately obscure with a nonlinear structure that might possibly frustrate some viewers. This is not so much ET or Starman but a complex, arty piece of work about innocence, alienation, loneliness, loss and looking at our whole crooked system from the point of view of the ultimate outsider. The more contact Newton has with human beings and the world of business the more corroded and dysfunctional he seems to become as if we are slowly infecting him with our own weaknesses and vices. There is a striking moment where he barricades himself indoors - with ranks of television sets playing behind him - to avoid human contact, Newton becoming obsessed with the concept of television in the film. "The strange thing about television is that it doesn't tell you everything. It shows you everything about life for nothing, but the true mysteries remain. Perhaps it's in the nature of television. Just waves in space."
David Bowie, here making his film debut, is perfectly cast as the androgynous, aloof alien with his red streaked hair, soft cockney accent and detached aura. The gradual assault on his purity on Earth is quite touching at times. Newton is like a rich eccentric pop star - with a dash of Howard Hughes thrown in - who might possibly have taken too many drugs in the past and is consequently a little bit strange. So one could perhaps suggest that Bowie was playing himself and that this is exactly what Roeg wanted. "Well I'm not a scientist," says Newton. "But I know all things begin and end in eternity." Newton seems to be capable of some sort of psychic time travel and Roeg hurtles us backwards and forwards in time and maintains a sense that we are seeing events from the point of view of this visitor. His goal is to have a spacecraft of some sort built in order to save his world although you'd think his planet would have done this themselves if they are so advanced. The film is not particularly concerned with the logic of its premise though and more fixated on surreal, trippy montages, atmosphere and capitalist boardroom politics and deceit. The film is also rife with artistic allusions, in particular Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, a painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
This being a Nicholas Roeg film there are of course several scenes involving naked people rolling around on beds and while it borders on the gratuitous at times, the director does have a knack for making things seem more naturalistic than most other directors. Newton enters a strange relationship with Candy Clark's Mary-Lou because of his profound sense of loneliness but of course they don't really understand each other. "You know Tommy, you're a freak," says Mary Lou. "I don't mean that unkindly. I like freaks. And that's why I like you." The disintegration of the relationship between them provides some memorable images and scenes and the supporting cast is a relatively strong one on the whole with Rip Torn good value as the lecherous Dr Nathan Bryce, a college professor who becomes obsessed with World Enterprises. The true nature of Newton is used to great effect in key moments too for some startling scenes.
Newton's mission is predictably compromised by people he thought he could trust, government bods and the general dog eat dog nature of business, money, boardrooms and finance. The fact that Newton is beginning to monopolise spheres of influence and capital is (pointedly) of far more concern to human beings than the notion that he might be an alien from another world. Although regarded as a sci-fi classic, the film is largely devoid of the usual colourful trappings of the genre - although time travel is used copiously with Newton slipping back a hundred years at one point while in his limousine. We also see the other characters age while Newton remains exactly the same. We do get some brief shots of Newton's homeworld with his family in a desert environment wearing tight plastic suits containing water pipes, all accomplished in a fairly rudimentary fashion. The gulf between Newton and his homeworld gives the film a powerful sense of loneliness and sadness that becomes one of its biggest strengths alongside the incredible imagery conjured up by Roeg and his cinematographer Anthony Richmond where America itself becomes an alien world.
The Man Who Fell Fell To Earth is a fascinating attempt to make an arty sci-fi film and full of mesmerizing imagery. The film has a hypnotic, dreamy atmosphere and although it might possibly be a little too slow and obscure for some tastes anyone who has enjoyed Nicholas Roeg films like Don't Look Now and Bad Timing but has yet to see this should certainly have a look. David Bowie is excellent as the frail extraterrestrial genius and the film frequently looks amazing. Extras with this include a featurette, theatrical trailer, TV spots, biographies, photo gallery, and a poster gallery.
Bowie makes a top alien in this experimental sci-fi flick from Nick Roeg. The story, told in abstract form, tells how a lonely alien brings to Earth new technology for commercial distribution. The story is a little hard to follow if you've just got back from the boozer as its pretty visual instead of opting for convential narrative, using a lot of flashbacks/flashforwards? So the films timeline is a little bumpy for some. I saw this the first time when I was a teen babysitting for some hag who had the kids from hell, so it was a welcome relief when I'd packed the little demons off to bed, cleared out the fridge and sat down to the mind-popping eye-candy that is The Man Who Fell To Earth. I don't remember figuring it out too well the first time, but it stuck in my mind so much that I did'nt hesitate to watch it the next time round on TV. It is well acted, uniquely shot/directed and the film has a lot of atmosphere, shingly-tingly-eerie, slightly odd, but a timeless classic nonetheless.
In Nicolas Roeg's sci-fi tale based on the novel by Walter Tevis, a humanoid alien (David Bowie) from a dried-up husk of a planet falls to Earth in a spaceship--and later falls again metaphorically through alcohol abuse and the manipulations of a hostile culture.