Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day 334: The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) - Rank 3.5/5


David Bowie is an alien? Well, no shit. Nicolas Roeg directs the singer in a dreamlike satire of the planet Earth. Sent to our world in search of a way to bring water back to his drought-ridden planet, Thomas Newton (Bowie) quickly generates a tremendous wealth by patenting advanced technology from his home (...transparent aluminum?). He soon rises to power and fame, but a fate of dissolution and addition creeps into his life as he falls prey to the very temptations that all other humans do.

The visual style of the film is remarkable, but considering Roeg's background, it's not surprising. Bowie performs surprisingly well, considering that this is his first major role in a film. He receives excellent support from Rip Torn, who refrains from hamming it up too much considering he's in the guise of a rakish, eccentric scientist. "The Man Who Fell to Earth" has a great deal going for it, but it's greatest downfall is its final act, as the film switches gears from Howard's quest to leave the planet to his seeming imprisonment. The film gets lost within itself, not unlike it's lead actor. This rough and almost clumsy transition throws off a smooth exercise in the surreal, snapping the viewer out of the hypnosis Roeg generated and leaving in it's place, confusion. I have to add, in the film's defense, that it has grown on my in retrospect, for the tale of an alien, far greater than any man, falling prey to the banalities of everyday life does play out like a science-fiction parable.

Watch the Trailer

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