Saturday, 21 November 2009

The Man Who Fell To Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976)

A part Bowie was born to play, you might say...unless he had never made it as rock’n’roll star and become the alladin sane we all love from his days as a thin white alien.
He plays the role perfectly, of course, needing to do little but be Bowie, be thin, pale and photogenic.
There are echoes of Bowie’s reality in Roeg’s adaptation of Trevis’s fiction – when he sits in the back of a limo as he did during the Arena documentary...and the fame, the wealth and his seemingly detached attitude towards it all. Bowie interviewed in recent times seems very down to Earth. Here he lands as an alien, which is how he came to the majority of us back in the 70s.
There’s much to enjoy in this film, not least the cinematography, but mostly Roeg’s artistry and admirable refusal to forge simple linearity from the story. As befits the subject of space travel, time here is not always linear. Mysterious characters from an undefined organisation scheme and kill. What would otherwise be the slow process of empire-building happens in the blink of a lens-covered eye.

One particular scene should strike a chord with all who have fried their brains with too much media imagery. Bowie sits watching a bank of TVs, stimulated at first, but gradually deteriorating into a state of agitation before crying “Get out of my mind, all of you. Leave my mind alone!”. Roeg splices together the screen shots brilliantly here to give the experience of information overload. Later he interweaves a sequence from ‘The Third Man’ into scenes from the film.
The only faults are some of the over-indulgent sex scenes, although Freudians might have a field day on the significance of a gun as a sex aid. Coupled with some dreadful music at times, it occasionally feels like something that belongs in an X-rated-only 70s sleaze pit, rather than an art house.
In a final nod to real life, the alien makes a record. Frustratingly, as the scientist checks it out in a store by donning headphones, we’re denied his experience. I’d like to have heard someone’s idea of music made by an alien visitor. If Bowie had been given the chance to do it, I guess it would have sounded like his work with Eno around that time.

1 comment:

  1. Hi there!

    I actually just wrote a blog post about The Man Who Fell to Earth (the novel not the movie). I'm a little hesitant to see the film but I think I may give it a shot.

    Here's the link to the post:



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