February 25, 2021 | Rome, Italy

The Man Who Fell to Earth

By | 2018-03-21T18:30:14+01:00 March 1st, 2004|Reviews|

3

Date: 1976

Director: Nicolas Roeg

Starring: David Bowie, Candy Clark, Rip Torn

For Briton Nicolas Roeg, filmmaking was about nailing dislocation and giving it the most improbable possible mood. Not surprisingly, he ran into all kinds of early censorship problems. Here, a man calling himself Thomas Jerome Newton is an alien from a planet dying of thirst. Incarnating desperation, he falls to Earth in search of water sources to save his family at home. Once afoot in the new world he meets Mary-Lou, who falls for his odd demeanor and hands him a drink. Bad idea.

The keys to Roeg’s kingdom, aside from arresting images, are David Bowie as Newton; an apt, occult choice, and Candy Clark, show-stopping as the lost Mary-Lou. In a nutshell, Earth corrupts Newton. Not knowing venality, greed, and drugs at home, he gets it on borrowed turf. He forgets his mission and becomes a debauched billionaire.

Roeg ingeniously flips common alien allegories on end. We’re the monster-makers. Though the story turns desperately ragged and self-indulgent toward the end, Roeg’s early work still conjures a bizarreness contemporaries were clueless to imitate.

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