“In most sci-fi movies, aliens are either invaders or envoys with benevolent messages, marauding aggressors who want to plunder our earthly resources, or messianic figures with dire warnings of doom to impart.
Director Nicolas Roeg’s 1976 film, The Man Who Fell To Earth, is very different, relating a humanoid alien’s lonely experiences as an outsider in a vast, unfamiliar America. Adapted from Walter Tevis’ 1963 novel, it’s a film about alienation rather than the benefits (or disaster) an alien visitation might bring.
David Bowie’s perfectly cast as Thomas Jerome Newton, exploiting his unique, androgynous otherness as a skinny alien with a crisp British accent. Porcelain pale, extraordinarily intelligent and apparently chaste (he prefers to drink water, and initially shows no interest in sex), we share Newton’s bewilderment at the otherness of the world around him, his attorney’s distracting, thick-lensed glasses, the bullying hyperactivity of television, the tortured lowing of cattle.
The film is worthy of enduring attention, thanks to its committed, moving central performances. Bowie is remarkable as a red-haired fallen angel, Candy Clarke both innocent and disquieting as the sweet, wide-eyed girl who appears to decay in front of the lens, and Rip Torn convincingly stoical as the libidinous teacher whose interest in science is reignited by Newton’s research.
The Man Who Fell To Earth is an experimental, one-of-a-kind piece of filmmaking, which stands alongside Walkabout and Don’t Look Now as Nicolas Roeg’s finest work, and Bowie’s never been better as one of the most compelling aliens in cinema.”
— Den of Geek
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