Starring: David Bowie, Rip Torn, Candy Clark
Directed by: Nicolas Roeg
Written by: Paul Mayersberg, Walter Tevis
Rating: R (US) Running Time: 2 hr 19 min
The Man Who Fell to Earth, according to the plot summary, is supposed to be about a visiting alien from a barren planet, who comes to Earth to secure a way to transfer water back home. During his time on Earth he’s corrupted by TV, alcohol and sex, and loses track of the mission to save his home planet and family. Which sounds great! It’s just a shame that very little of that idea ended up in the over two-hour movie I just suffered through!
Apparently this movie has somehow garnered a cult following over the years, but I honestly couldn’t tell you why. Sure it’s weird, and horrendously bad in my opinion, but not in the right entertaining way. It’s a collection of random scenes with little or no connection to each other, or the story’s premise. A set of characters plodding through an unclear timeline, drinking heavily while making no sense at all. Random images of naked men and women covered in wall paper paste spinning through the air superimposed over flying cookies.
I’m sure that bizarre juxtaposition of visual elements is supposed to mean something, and I’m not opposed to some visual flair to highlight a movie’s deeper points. But it should be in some way anchored to character and story if you’re going to present this as a film. Otherwise all it amounts to is an exhibit in a modern art gallery, and certainly not something you’d want to spend 139 minutes looking at.
I suspect this film has many supporters, who love the muddled story telling, crazy visuals, and the idea of David Bowie being an alien from another world. If that sounds like your cup of tea, by all means take this movie on and see what you think. If you prefer your movie entertainment to have characters you can relative to, and a clear plot structure then stay clear of this. The movie earns its R rating through its depiction of alcohol abuse, nudity and sex.
This has its moments visually, but a HD copy of this film doesn’t seem to be available (as of 7/10/2014). There is however, a ridiculously expensive Criterion Collection set on DVD. A regular TV showing will service this film well enough. Watching this on anything smaller than that will make this film even harder to follow.
The muddled story telling. I know I know, this is supposed to be art, but this film was based on a book, and that book contained a story with characters that had clear goals. I personally would have preferred to watch a version of this film that more closely followed the ideas in the book. My research tells me there is an older version of this story on film, so I’ll have to check that out and see how the two compare.