Thomas Jerome Newton is a humanoid alien who comes to Earth to get water for his dying planet. He starts a high technology company to get the billions of dollars he needs to build a return spacecraft, and meets Mary-Lou, a girl who falls in love with him. He does not count on the greed and ruthlessness of business here on Earth, however.
Due to be remade in 2009
David Bowie ... Thomas Jerome Newton
Rip Torn ... Nathan Bryce
Candy Clark ... Mary-Lou
Buck Henry ... Oliver Farnsworth
Bernie Casey ... Peters
Jackson D. Kane ... Professor Canutti
Rick Riccardo ... Trevor
Tony Mascia ... Arthur
Linda Hutton ... Elaine
Hilary Holland ... Jill
Adrienne Larussa ... Helen
Lilybelle Crawford ... Jewelery Store Owner
Richard Breeding ... Receptionist
Albert Nelson ... Waiter
Peter Prouse ... Peters' Associate
Cinema, once in a while, can provide frustrations of the highest order. You watch with interest, only to have your train of thought switched elsewhere by a film that steers you off course. You are perplexed, through missing something, but this is even more annoying when you don't quite know what that something is.
This is precisely the criticism leveled at The Man Who Fell To Earth, which carries the hallmark of a peculiar, brave but controversial directorial style. Nicolas Roeg directs this science fiction/drama/love story with one eye on the main event and another on the various sub plots that weave their way in and out of the principal tale. The fact that he uses this to create a somewhat disjointed narrative is seen as a personal indulgence and many were puzzled enough to claim that the whole project was flawed. That is a harsh judgment; the film is highly stylized, but this does not detract from it's undoubted quality.
Thomas Jerome Newton (David Bowie) lands, as surely all self respecting aliens would choose to do, in New Mexico. How come he is wearing ‘normal' clothes? Where did he get the precious metal rings that he wastes no time in trading so eagerly? Why is he carrying an Englishman's passport? These are the kind of questions that confront you at the outset, causing many to bark in dismay. To get the maximum benefit from the film, you simply have to take these unexplained occurrences - and also the rapid passing of time - on board, because the whole is more significant and understandable than its component parts.
Newton arrives here to suck on the capitalist system, recruiting a top patent's lawyer (Buck Henry as Oliver Farnsworth) along the way to help quickly mould his business idea, World Enterprises, into an immense scientific and commercial colossus. He needs the cash to fund the construction of a spacecraft which will carry him back home with the secret of water, the vital resource that, without which, his planet is dying. A disillusioned college professor, (Rip Torn, magnificent as Nathan Brice) stale with the stench of academia and tired of bedding his female students joins Newton as a chief scientist. He is actually the closest to understanding the man, but he ultimately fails him. The mocked time lapses in this film are, in my view one of it's strengths. It enables us to see Mary Lou (Candy Clark) pass from young humble hotel maid to alcoholic old wretch, via live-in lover and ‘Tommy' worshipper. Clark & Bowie share a key scene where Newton decides to reveal his true self: Newton discards his human-eye contact lenses, strips away the false body hair and fingernails. Mary Lou goes hysterical with fear as the real Newton appears in all his extra-terrestrial glory and this is made all the more grotesque when he starts to exude a complete bodily slime during the ensuing love ritual.
A special mention should be made of Anthony Richmond's photography, particularly in the spectacular terrain of New Mexico. Indeed, the whole film is a technical masterpiece and the acting is also of the highest level.
Of course, the Man Who Fell To Earth is himself beaten at the outset. The Intelligence Services, jealous, as opposed to curious, of his corporate success, want this weirdo brought to order. They achieve this by hounding Farnsworth and infiltrating the company, finally spoiling everything.
Imaginative, vibrant,different, ambitious and memorable: I rarely award ratings but will make an exception here. 8/10 and worth regular re-viewings.
So, you thought Alan Yentob's "Cracked Actor" or perhaps D.A. Pennebaker's "Ziggy Stardust: Motion Picture" was the perfect pictorial rendering of David Bowie and his life in the '70s?
It's in this, Nicolas Roeg's 1976 master-piece, the real Bowie reveals himself. The rock star's perfect in his interpretation of Thomas Jerome Newton, alien castaway turned resigned and bored capitalist super-star. Mainly because this was were Bowie were at in the mid-'70s. It's not acting. It's Bowie's mere presence. He was an earthling just as alien as his character.
"The Man Who Sold The World" is a rather depressing, and strange, tale of a man who comes to our planet to raise money to help his own world dying from drought. All he really want is to get home to his wife and kids on that doomed planet. But instead he falls for the mortal sins (sex, drugs, music, television).
The film's beautiful, sad, scary and somewhat pretentious. It's sci-fi when it's human.
I have just watched "The Man Who Fell to Earth" from beginning to end after seeing several scenes here and there from years of flipping past the sci-fi channel or whatever other channel this film might've been shown on. I must say that I think it is one of the most interesting films I've ever seen. Now before you start thinking this is going to be a review of blind worship, stop for a moment and remember that just because something is interesting doesn't mean it's likeable. Art is not meant to be appealing. It's meant to cause a reaction, it's meant to make you think, it's meant to make you uncomfortable. Art forces feelings upon you that you might rather not experience, so whether you like it or not, this film is a work of art. But some art...in fact a lot of art...is trash. Is this movie trash? Some say yes, some say not. Some think it's brilliant, others think it a waste of time. Some think the narrative's dependence on visual stimulus as opposed to linear storytelling is a touch of cinematic beauty, while others dismiss it as experimental tripe.
Somebody wrote a scathing review saying that if you like junk like "Lost Highway," you might enjoy this movie. Well, no offense meant, but I'd like to say that this person has made clear that he can't see past what's appealing. Why watch something that's unappealing you might ask? Because that's what art's supposed to do...it challenges you and your values. Sometimes it reinforces them, and sometimes it will blatantly attack them. You have to draw your own conclusions and interpretations. "The Man Who Fell to Earth" is no different. Yes, the film seems to jump from time to time, one scene juxtaposed with a scene that takes place 20 years later, a flashback that may or may not be a flashback, it is confusing. I know I was confused. It's not a linear narrative...it's telling a story through pictures, with occasional words just to make sure you have a little more than an inkling as to what you're supposed to be seeing. Personally, I would be interested to see the movie without dialogue...like "Aeon Flux," a story can be told philosophically and artistically without words.
What is the story? Well...quite simply, David Bowie, in his first and probably one of his best on-screen performances, is an alien on Earth trying to find a way to get water back to his world. Is it as simple as it sounds? Not by any means. But you have to believe it to see it. You will be confused, you might even be offended (there's a lot of sexually explicit scenes that border on pornography), but one way or the other, this film is meant to be visually stimulating. What you see will make you think...if you're repulsed by it and feel the urge to turn it off, then it's simply not your kind of movie.
On the whole, I like this movie, though I must be in a certain mood to watch it. It is not easy to watch, there are long stretches without dialogue, and when there is dialogue, it's often confusing. But no matter what, I like what I was seeing on the screen. I do feel like watching it again because I know there is more to absorb and take in, there's more to think about that I missed before. But that's the kind of person I am...I want to think, and I want that discomfort this movie gives me because I am alleviated by the need to solve it, not dismiss it. Bowie is in fine form, probably used to alienation being a Brit in America, and having played his own Ziggy Stardust character in the past. The rest of the cast performs rather competently, although nobody's performance shines as much as Bowie's (although Candy Clarke is pretty good in some scenes, and Rip Torn's deadpan performance is a bit of dry humor).