THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH
Reviewed by: JimmyO
What's it about
A reclusive alien in the form of David Bowie visits earth from his dying planet. With his technological knowledge he is able to convince an attorney to help him with several million dollar patents. He soon becomes a multi-millionaire, but he also finds his connection, not only to his family in space, but those around him seem to fade away as his connection with reality disappears along with them. What’s a none aging Space Oddity supposed to do?
Is it good movie?
Why do they not make films like this anymore? This is a fascinating and bizarre journey about an alien on earth. There is nothing simple here as Thomas (David Bowie) searches our planet for a way to end the drought on his home planet and save his family. In fact, the only thing simple is the title… The Man Who Fell To Earth. This is a surreal trip into power, addiction to technology (among other things) and all that money can by. When this visitor who is only searching to save his family is corrupted by those around him, it really is a tragic tale. Yet Nicolas Roeg is a visionary, much in the same way that David Lynch is, and he creates a sometimes funny and often odd science fiction tale. I am most fascinated by the complex and profound ideology expressed here. The sexuality, the storytelling and all of the elements are very mature and far from your typical Hollywood fare.
It begins as a young man with a London accent named Thomas Jerome Newton attempts to hire a patent attorney named Oliver Farnsworth (Buck Henry). He brings him a file and has the lawyer read it after offering him a great deal of money. As Oliver opens the file, he finds that there are several patents that may end up making Thomas millions of dollars. Soon, the two are in business and not surprisingly, the company they put together becomes huge. They even have to hire out a scientist, in the form of a jaded professor named Nathan Bryce (Rip Torn) to help realize Mr. Newton’s vision. But Thomas and his reasons for starting the company are much more complicated than greed. It is a way for him to find the technology to return to his family and help the horrible drought that their planet has suffered from. But nothing is simple. And it is soon even more complicated when Tom meets Mary-Lou (Candy Clark) and the two fall in love… sort of. It is a strange relationship as the two share sex and she takes care of her man. But at some point, his truth will come out and complicate the lives of everyone around them.
The power of this haunting tale is that it’s sometimes silly, sometimes disturbing and oftentimes beautiful. It shifts from one moment to the next rather quickly, while often slowly lingering over the oncoming storm (literally). In fact, my only minor complaint is the fact that there are a few moments that drag, just a bit. I also found that, while I really enjoyed Candy Clark in the film, sometimes her whining became a tad irritating. Both her and Bowie made for strange bedfellows, but it worked nicely. In fact, speaking of bed, since this version is uncut, there is a lot of nudity throughout from everyone involved. Excect for Buck Henry and his male lover, for this, we can all be thankful. Interestingly enough, I have read reviews that have used the term “pornographic”, but if you read that in the context of this film, it is inappropriate and just plain ridiculous. There is nothing pornographic at all and the sad thing is, these are recent reviews that have mentioned this. Why does society freak out when it comes to sex as much as they do?
As for Nicolas Roeg, he is an amazing director. His films always have this bizarre quality to them that is surprisingly grounded in reality (more so than Lynch), but they seemed to transcend all that is real. For The Man Who Fell To Earth, he is quite comfortable using the zoom lens, and moving his camera across distant locations. When he does this it feels rough and shakes slightly, and it also adds to the “real” quality of the film. His fascination with sex and relationships is always interesting whether it be here, or Don’t Look Now or even the sadly underrated but incredibly strange Track 29. His very distinct style is cleverly matched with David Bowie’s bizarre nature at that time in his career.
Video / Audio
Video: This is a passable 2.35:1 Widescreen presentation, but I wished it would have looked better. It still feels a bit grainy and dated because of it.
Audio: The Dolby Digital Surround EX 6 - 1 DTS ES is stunning. It almost entirely makes up for the not so stellar video quality.
No extras? That makes me sadder than an alien family living without water.
The Man Who Fell To Earth is a stunning, if slightly flawed masterpiece. The power of it lies in the ability to explore human nature and the things that go with it. Sex, addiction, and the attraction of power all make this a brilliant metaphor for our weakness. The performances are all unique and fascinating. The strongest for me is the always reliable Rip Torn. I highly recommend this film, unless you don’t like this sort of art house cinema. Nicolas Roeg has the expressionistic ways of Lynch but they are grounded in a strange reality. A very worthy addition to your cult classic section in your video library. Too bad about the lack of special features.