17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding Criterion Release,
This review is from: The Man Who Fell To Earth (2 Disc Special Edition) [DVD] (DVD)
The Man Who Fell to Earth is a science fiction cult film from director Nicolas Roeg (Walkabout, Don't Look Now). It stars David Bowie as an alien who visits Earth seeking water for his home world which is barren. It is based on the Walter Tevis novel of the same name and this Criterion release of The Man Who Fell to Earth comes with the book as well. There are significant enough differences between the novel and the film that the novel is a worthy supplement to the experience of watching this movie. You will also want to check out the DVD extras in the same regard.
David Bowie is the title character in his only feature role. He is Thomas Newton and he only has to adjust his appearance a little bit to look somewhat human. That is if you think David Bowie even looks human because I don't, but I do realize he is...I think? Anyway, Thomas Newton rises to great wealth due to his society's advances in technology and his ability to create enterprises based on his patenting compilations of ideas that his world produced, nonexistent on Earth. He is trying of course to fund the shipment of water back to his home world. Thomas soon meets Mary-Lou (played by Candy Clark). Mary-Lou is your typical girl who introduces him to many of Earth's temptations. Thomas is soon inhibited by his aberrant consumption of alcohol and his fixation with television. It all has a very negative effect on him. Mary-Lou and his friend Nathan (Rip Torn) both eventually discover separately that Thomas is indeed an alien. After being revealed and after the government imprisons him, Thomas's inevitable downfall becomes apparent. We see him gradually accept failure in his task and grow increasingly negative in his disposition. He has truly fallen to Earth I suppose.
The big strengths in this film are primarily its cinematography. I like Nicholas Roeg's other films a lot so I'm aware that this is to be expected. I like the idea of a science fiction art film and overall I can really appreciate the fact that The Man Who Fell to Earth is not as in your face as most science fiction is today and was even back then in the mid 70s. However, this is almost too surreal and sedated for me. It was convincing but there were some long and boring stretches and I couldn't figure out why exactly, beyond the photography alone. It just seemed a lot longer than the story warranted. Also, I think I can draw the line between gratuitous nudity and appropriate nudity and I'm grown up enough to accept both. The Man Who Fell to Earth has much gratuitous nudity, but that was a sign of the times I guess so it's partially forgivable. There is more emotion and drive behind Newton in the Tevis novel and it seemed a bit more controlled as an existential piece of work. It doesn't matter though because with the Criterion release you are getting both and if you like to collect interesting and unique films that will have you talking then this set is worth owning. The film itself would probably get three stars from me but the Criterion release justifies four. It really is an exceptional package. The extras are outstanding and should help answer most questions you will have. Provoking movies like this one, whether they be good or bad, deserve the royal treatment so kudos to Criterion once again.