Tuesday, January 13, 2015

616. The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

Running Time: 138 minutes
Directed By: Nicholas Roeg
Written By: Paul Mayersberg, from the novel by Walter Tevis
Main Cast: David Bowie, Rip Torn, Candy Clark, Buck Henry, Bernie Casey
Click here to view the trailer


Today's objective: Another three movies in the bag, just like last Tuesday. If I can make that little goal, I'll only have six to go before I reach my short term goal of only having 100 movies to go and I'll be ready for TOP 20 list #9. In other news, I'm really starting to dislike Nicholas Roeg, but we'll get into that in a bit. Read on...

So the plot's kind of screwy (much like Performance), but I'll give you my bare bones interpretation and if you want to know more, it's an experience that you'll have to take the leap on for yourself. David Bowie plays an alien, Thomas Jerome Newton, come from a planet that is experiencing a major drought. His planet is like a big desert, which we see in flashbacks and back home, he's a family man, with a wife and two children. He's come to Earth because he's seen pictures of our planet on television and knows there's lots of water to be had. He comes bearing nine basic patents for electronics (cameras mostly), that threaten to bankrupt companies like Kodak. He retains a layer (Henry) who ballparks that Newton could make upwards of $300 million dollars off of his inventions, which are basic items on his home planet, but very advanced technology on Earth, but Newton insists that this isn't enough money - he'll need more. Eventually, it becomes known that Newton is raising money to build a spaceship so that he can transport water back to his home planet and save his family. In addition to the lawyer, Newton also retains Dr. Nathan Bryce (Torn), a college professor who he charges with the task of developing ways of fueling his man made spaceship. Meanwhile, Newton meets up with hotel clerk Mary Lou (Clark) and the two begin a relationship, despite Newton telling her that he's married. Newton keeps the secret that he's an alien a secret from everyone until about the midway mark, where certain people begin to find out and Newton is eventually wanted for testing. That ought to do ya...

Man, what a weirdo Roeg is, right? I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I shouldn't sum up one man's artistic talents by simply writing him off as a weirdo and just because I don't particularly care for him, doesn't mean that others don't find him a creative genius. In fact, I see shades of genius myself and I can't even imagine what people were calling him in the 70s - beyond weirdo, for sure. I wonder how well these films got over upon initial release, as it just seems like the audience at the time wouldn't have been accepting to something like this. A quick check to Wikipedia shows that the film was a "cult" hit, which tells me that most of the regular Joe, movie goers denounced it. But again, there were definite flecks of genius and the imagery on display was quite mind bending, to say the least. Roeg's editing choices continue to frustrate. I'm all for out of whack continuities, but give me a little hint as to what scenes belong where and what the chronology actually is. I was able to grasp the general, bare bones plot, but I feel like there was so much more that went right over my head. Like Bernie Casey's character - what was his deal? I had no idea what he was doing in there or what role he was playing. Also, of course, the film was just too long. Strip away about forty minutes and polish up the editing a bit and this could've really been something special, as it was unique enough and visceral enough to be something worthy of praise. As it is, it was mostly a disappointment.

What's with Roeg's use of rock stars as actors? Although I'll admit that Bowie actually wasn't half bad as an actor and I'd even go so far to say I liked his performance. His look is odd enough that playing an alien was actually spot on. Dig that scene where Bowie actually appears in his true form - lacking a butt crack and genitals. Speaking of scenes, dig that sex scene between Bowie and Candy Clark, where they roll around naked and shoot a gun filled with blanks at each other. Really a terrific scene and got me to thinking about some of the great sex scenes in film history. The one I just mentioned would have to be included, as would the one between Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie from Don't Look Now. Which others? Also, speaking of Bowie, why was Space Oddity not included SOMEWHERE in the movie!? It seems like the perfect song to compliment the character of Newton and it's performed by the film's star. It's about a space man, technically an astronaut, but alien is a type of space man too, right? RIGHT?!

RATING: 5/10  One to watch again probably and '5' is probably being way too generous, but I'll give it the benefit of the doubt and admit that it's unique enough and odd enough to get at least to the average marker.


January 13, 2015  2:13pm

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