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