Film A Week 28: The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

Last week’s Film A Week ventured into the realm of David Lynch, considered a master of his craft and now we focus on another famous David: the incomparable David Bowie. Bowie has been making music for decades, bending genres exploring what other musician only dare to venture into and inspiring future generations to take his trademark alter egos and create their owns. From Ziggy Stardust to being proclaimed the Thin White Duke, David Bowie to this day has made an impact and even continues to create music with his latest album The Next Day being released to universal. It is wonder then that this man has tried to put his godgiven ass into the world of acting with his debut in The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Yes, for those unaware, the man appeared in a film other than Labyrinth (not knocking that film though is a chessy good time). In Man Who Fell, Bowie plays a martian who has come to Earth to seek out water for his homeworld under the pseudonym of Thomas Jerome Newton. He meets a maid named Mary-Lou, played by Candy Clark who shows him around New Mexico (What is it with these men from other worlds coming to New Mexico? First, Bowie and then Thor. Who is next?).

Thor never had it this good though

He slowly becomes a quite sucessful man by making inventions for World Enterprises in order to build a great amount success and befriends Dr. Nathan Bryce, played by Rip Torn, who tends to be quite the womanizer. Bryce discovers that Newton is not of this world by setting up a series of X-Ray cameras to take pictures of him, as Newton descends into madness of alcoholism and watching multiple sets of televisions. Newton uses his fortune to build a spaceship to head back, despite the obstacles that may get in his way and chaos that may ensue.

The Man Who Fell to Earth is an odd foray in the world of science fiction that seems unnatural and surreal at times. Given the nature of subject matter they are dealing with, it is no wonder. The direction by Nicholas Roeg creates a vision that rivals Lynch with moments that seem out of nowhere and possibly drug infused. Sure, the psychedelic imagery fits in with the era and science fiction features of that. What Roeg does, however, makes an intelligent and unique story using this imagery that not only appeals to the casual viewer, but the art house crowd. Guess Roeg was aware of Criterion Collection before there was a Criterion Collection to speak of.


A story like this would be quite hard to convey and make in modern cinema alongside other films such Inception and District 9, but feels in the realm as those two present classics that made audiences hink and wonder. That is something science fiction is missing these days: intelligence. Casting Bowie as the lead may seem like a gesture to bring more audiences in, but adding him into the mix seems ideal. Bowie already made himsslf built on the obscure and out of this world style, so this film expands upon that. What may surprise many is just how damn good David Bowie is on the acting front. Candy Clark does her job as the swet Mary Lou who in turns falls into the madness that surrounds Newton. Rip Torn himself plays the friendly foe to perfection with a betrayal that feels natural and not out of place just to move the story forward.

Man Who Fell delivers an intelligent and honest effort in the science fiction genre that does not talk down on its viewers, but instead engages them in a worthy out of this world experiences. For David Bowie fans still curious about his acting work, this is great film to start out wih and see just how talented our beloved Goblin King truly is.

Next week on Film A Week, adaptation of highly praised novels is always a tough job, unless the author himself has full control on his own work. Join as we dive into Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the modern classic film based upon a novel I happen to love. Let’s see how this goes.

Film A Week 29: The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Saturday July 27th


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