The Man Who Fell to Earth
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The Man Who Fell to Earth

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Since the 1980s millions of film aficionados have been able to collect their favorite movies and television shows thanks to the rapid acceptance of a new piece of equipment, home VCR. The film to be considered especially important source for crucial to the advancement of the artistic expression cinema, reassuring to collect multiple copies of the same movie as technology advances and the quality of the copy increases exponentially. A recent example of this is a personal favorite of mine since 1976 I first watched it in an often frequented theater in Greenwich Village, ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth.' Initially, the draw to see the movie was because it stared music icon, David Bowie. Anyone who has seen his stage show knows that he was a rare talent use the entire essence of his being into every performance. Constantly reinventing this persona, the audience was never quite sure what they were in for but, they knew beyond any doubt that would be an unforgettable experience. This film represented the feature film debut for this man of eclectic talent. Almost a decade later I was able to make a copy from cable television and some years after that I received the DVD of the film. By that time I realized that the real cinematic importance of this movie extended beyond its star.

As my appreciation of movies deepened, I endeavored to become an autodidact of the cinematic art form. I realized that one of the most important elements of this film is that it is an early work of the most innovative directors of our time, Nicolas Roeg. He was a direct influence on such incredibly talented filmmakers as, Quentin Tarantino, Danny Boyle Steven Soderbergh, and Ridley Scott. Roeg was a staunch believer that the audience cannot be a passive voyeur staring at the screen watching the film. He was known for taking elements of the story line and deconstructing them visually presenting images that the audience would have to process to understand the narrative actively. Unlike most directors of the time, the chronology was multivariable Roeg defragment and reassemble to achieve his artistic vision the collaboration between Roeg and Bowie was brilliant and remains one of the most imaginative moments in cinema. Every time I have seen this film, my appreciation growing is in scope, and my enhancing my understanding through a renewed experience that enveloped me in greater detail and nuances than previously possible.

The central plot point is movie has been a perennial favorite of science fiction writers for many years, extraterrestrial beings come to earth in search for order, a commodity crucial for life and almost nonexistent on their home world. Since then science has proven that water is one of the most indicative substances in the galaxy some of the moons of our gas giants in possession of far more of the crucial substance down on our entire planet. Besides the vast abundance, these aliens did not have to contend with those pesky indigenous carbon life forms that would complicate the aqueous harvest. Science begins me obliged to add this fact but as far as the context of the story goes the titular man, assuming the terrestrial identity of Thomas Jerome Newton (David Bowie), was dispatch here to bring water back to his drought-plagued the world. As soon as he arrives on, Newton leverages the substantially advanced technology of his home world to obtain patents on some technological wonders. At the time this movie was filmed the first personal computers were just beginning to appear in garages and what would become Silicon Valley. Newton becomes one of the wealthiest men on the planet consolidating his technology the global corporation, World Enterprises Corporation. Oliver Farnsworth (Buck Henry) becomes the most members of the Corporation senior management and a trusted confidant Mr. Newton. He achieved this position by being an American patent lawyer, now entrusted mostly aggressive and robust portfolio of patents ever assembled. As an extraterrestrial, Newton did not share the motivations for accumulating such incredible wealth. He did not become a multi-billionaire to attain any political or social power. This sole goal was to accumulate sufficient financial resources to construct a vessel capable of bringing water back to his desperate planet.

During an inspection trip to New Mexico Newton encounters Mary Lou (Candy Clark), an employee of a small, local hotel. The hotel was tiny that Mary Lou held several concurrent positions; maid, bell-hop, and elevator operator. She is an introverted young woman whose loneliness evaporated has she develops a relationship with the billionaire. She is instrumental in acclimating Newton to the nuances of life on earth. With Mary Lou as his guide, Newton becomes better acquainted with such common aspects as religion, sex, and alcohol. His naiveté on such mundane matters is intriguing to the young woman. Nothing remotely interesting has ever happened to her, and now she has become the cultural guide to one on the most influential men in the world. Newton’s coterie expanded by the addition of another human being, Dr. Nathan Bryce (Rip Torn). A college professor with a penchant for sexual conquests, he was hired by the corporation as a propulsion expert specializing in advanced fuels. Sensing something ineffable about his boss Professor Bryce hides a particular camera with X-ray capabilities. He can verify that Newton exhibits some peculiar habits including simultaneously watching several televisions and an appetite for alcohol. The biggest shock was the X-rays revealed Newton’s true, extraterrestrial physiology. This plot point opens the way for the third act of the story where the launch of the spaceship draws near, close associates murdered and romantic relationships collapse.

This film is not for people that expect little more from a movie than a straightforward storyline. At times the narrative appears to follow a storyboard devised by famed graphic artist, M. C. Escher. Linearity is not a convention not fully embraced by the filmmaker. Ironically, Roeg is known for trademark avoidance of storyboards for his films believing that such preparation undermines the organic spontaneity of the work. This piece is an example of a film that was crafted not as something to be merely viewed; it is an immersive sensory experience. As soon as you place this Blu-ray into your home theater, you have entered into a form of contract with the auteur to abandon you preconceived expectations for a movie. This departure from reality and the artistic norm was inevitable, the synergistic juxtaposition of two exceptionally geniuses with uniquely talented, vision and perception. Doubtlessly, many younger viewers will be critical of the special effects, dated and primitive by contemporary standards. For those initiates to this particular type of film, my advice is simple. Keep in mind those special effects were not included to heighten a sense of realism, rather they reinforce the extraterrestrial origins of the protagonist and the rationale for his naive lack of understanding to some of the most routine elements of modern life, truly here Bowie and Roeg shine like a binary star. The directorial style of ambiguous visuals is reinforced with powerful impact by the androgynous appearance of the preternaturally thin physical presence of Mr. Bowie create an unworldly platform for a remarkable example of art capable of defining the period of its crafting while enduring treasure. For a film so dependent of imagery the inherent resolution of a DVD is insufficient, demanding the high definition remastering for this Blu-ray.

bulletDavid Bowie Interview - French TV 1977
bulletNew Interview with Costume Designer May Routh Featuring Original Costume Sketches
bulletNew Interview with Stills Photographer David James Featuring Behind-the-Scenes Stills
bulletNew Interview with Paul Buckmaster and Author Chris Campin
bulletInterview with Candy Clark
bulletInterview with Writer Paul Mayerberg with Cinematographer Tony Richmond
bulletInterview with Director Nicolas Roeg
bulletTrailer

Posted 01/21/2017

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