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David Bowie: The Man Who Fell to Earth (Multilingual) Hardcover – 26 Oct 2017
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About the Author
Paul Duncan is a film historian who has edited 50 film books for TASCHEN, including The James Bond Archives, The Charlie Chaplin Archives, and The Godfather Family Album.
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Two books have recently come out about Nic Roeg’s dazzling 1970s sci-fi tour-de-force, and together they make one good one. Susan Compo’s quick read Earthbound: David Bowie and the Man Who Fell to Earth is the perfect companion to Taschen’s photo-journal of the production, which lacks any useful descriptive material as to what you are looking at.
I first saw The Man Who Fell to Earth in 1976 as a new film when it was originally released. I was twenty years old and avidly reading Philip Dick and Robert Silverberg. Perfect timing. I was so astonished by it, so utterly bowled over, that I saw it six times during its first theatrical run, and every time it came around after that (before video and DVD there were just lots of cinemas, and a pecking order from the first-run chains to the final-run-before-TV fleapits). Every time I re-watched it, I found something new, every time I took something different from it. Since the arrival of VCRs and DVDs, I’ve been able to revisit it frequently and whenever I want in the comfort of my own home (and without the BBC snipping away at it for the benefit of people not watching anyway). Today, I’m still quietly in awe of this extraordinary film, but can safely say that The Man Who Fell to Earth has few new secrets.
Nicolas Roeg made no less than four mind-blowing films—Performance, Walkabout, Don’t Look Now, and this one—before inexplicably losing his muse. Still, four masterpieces is four more than most people. Much that was science fiction then in The Man Who Fell to Earth has since come to pass (self-developing film was a fantasy in 1976, and what are Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple, if not World Enterprises?), but it was in the delivery of the story that the film was truly ahead of its time. In fact, it’s now almost impossible to get across exactly how far ahead of everything else in cinema Nic Roeg’s film-making technique and talent actually was, as since then, the rest of film and television has belatedly caught up with him, and The Man Who Fell to Earth is not nearly as unusual today as it was then. But to try and get across the yawning chasm between what Roeg was doing and what everybody else was doing, consider that 1976 was also the year of Logan’s Run, and that the following year, Lucas and Spielberg took sci-fi cinema back to basics with Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind; that when Roeg made Don’t Look Now, it was the era of Hammer, Tigon, and Amicus; and that Performance preceded The Sweeney by ten years. It took between ten and fifteen years for the subtle and sophisticated non-chronological approach employed by Roeg to filter into mainstream film and TV.
My scene-by-scene familiarity with the film has come in useful—essential, in fact—for enjoying Taschen’s beautiful photo journal of the film’s production, as the captions, when there are some, tell you nothing, preferring to offer redundant and indulgent quotes (banal sound-bytes would be a better description) rather than actual information on what you are looking at and what’s going on.
Furthermore, printed in tiny type on a grey background, it is quite a chore to read (I needed both artificial light and, at my age, a magnifying glass!), which is even more irritating when you realise after all that effort that nine times out of ten you didn’t need to read it at all! Consequently, the audience for this book is devoted Bowie fans, who will be thoroughly sated, and those, like myself, who know the movie forwards, backwards, and back-to-front. It is a lovely book for us, and, I thought, quite reasonably priced for such a high quality item.
There is a brief informative essay at the back of the book which should rather obviously have been at the front, and those less familiar with the narrative would be well-advised to read this first. If you haven’t seen the film at all, you are strongly advised to do so before indulging in the book. But for anyone not in love with David Bowie, to get anything out of this at all, you have to know and love this film. And fortunately, I do.
This book on Bowie and TMWFTE is just superb. Hundreds of behind the scene images many of which I had never seen before.
As actress Candy Clark has previously commented Bowie was at the hight of his androgynous beauty in the year the film was made. The images reflect this alongside his cool as f..k photogenicity.
If I have one criticism it is that the book would have been better presented in a larger format to do the photographs greater justice.
As it is, this hefty paperback sized book is still of great quality and more than worthy of high praise. Love it!
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It a birthday gift for a fan of the film and of the late Star man David Bowie.