The Man Who Fell to Earth is a daring exploration of science fiction as an art form. The story of an alien on an elaborate rescue mission provides the launching pad for Nicolas Roeg’s visual tour de force, a formally adventurous examination of alienation in contemporary life. Rock legend David Bowie, in his acting debut, completely embodies the title role, while Candy Clark, Buck Henry, and Rip Torn turn in pitch-perfect supporting performances.—The Criterion Collection
London-born Nicolas Roeg served in the military as a projectionist, and entered the movie industry immediately after World War II as a gofer and apprentice editor. He joined MGM’s British studios in 1950, and eventually became a cinematographer in 1959, working on a multitude of films of all types, from second unit work on Lawrence of Arabia (1962) to primary photography on the rock & roll exploitation films Just for Fun (1963), Every Day’s a Holiday (1965), and The System (1966). He moved into the director’s chair with Performance (1970), which he co-directed with Donald Cammell, and made a major impression with the low-keyed, eerily compelling drama Walkabout (1971). By the mid-‘70s, Roeg was one of England’s most respected filmmakers, responsible for the unsettling thriller Don’t Look Now (1973), and the sci-fi drama The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976). With the possible exception Insignificance (1985) and the compellingly obscure Track 29 (1988) Roeg’s output throughout the 1980s… read more
Roeg’s blending of archival footage of space with Bowie’s performance as an alien on Earth merges precisely to form his science fiction. While the latter part of the aesthetic may feel dated, there’s no denying the eclectic, if not electric feel of this space oddity, which owes its headiness and underlying humanity to the inimitable presence of Bowie as much as to Roeg’s crazed editing. Think of it, with its assorted Americana, as his Zabriskie Point; at both times of and out of this world; a time capsule and futurist fiction; intimate and interstellar.
Visual candies and expressive editing aren't enough to sustain this. The script doesn't give us a clue about the main character's motivation till one hour into the movie! There are tons of useless supporting characters that act randomly and contribute to further distanciate the viewer... The last 30 minutes or so are meandering and dreadful, like Roeg wasn't even trying anymore but didn't want to end the film either.
I can almost handle the fact that The Man Who Fell To Earth was seemingly written but never finished by a sleepy or lazy person. I can also deal with the its oddness just for the sake of oddness, even its strong start that gave way to its WTF ending. Equally astonishing and annoying. But don't dare tell me that anyone would give anywhere nearly as much of a shit about this movie if David Bowie wasn't in it.
A 70s, sex-filled sci-fi drama (almost). Music is great, obviously, as are the Bradbury-esque aliens. There are some scenes of juxtaposition that work really well, but Roeg manages to drag this film like crazy (no surprise there). Although its considered a cult film, I can't see myself watching this again. It has its moments of comedy and spaciness, but I cant actually call it "good". But Bowie makes a creepy alien..
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With Insignificance (1985) out from Criterion last week (see the roundup), The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) opening at Film Forum in New York