Sunday, 3 April 2011

Blu-Ray Review: the Man Who Fell To Earth

Directed By Nicolas Roeg

Starring David Bowie, Candy Clark, Rip Torn, Buck Henry

Thomas Jerome Newton is a humanoid alien who comes to Earth to get water to save his dying planet from a terrible global drought. He sells patents to start a high technology company to get the billions of dollars he needs to build a return spacecraft, and meets Mary-Lou, a girl who falls in love with him. However, he does not count on the greed and ruthlessness of business here on Earth and how it will ultimately effect him.

This oddly compelling sci-fi movie, from Nicolas Roeg, movie came along just before the massive budget thrills of Star Wars and Close Encounters. It’s almost an adult didactic fairy tale with a touch of noir about it. Unlike most movies there is no clear narrative. The viewer is asked to fill in the blanks. It appears to be a move made to watch over and over again, to let the themes saturate, similarly to 2001: A Space Odyssey. I feel it rides along the same sci-fi road as Soylent Green and Logan ’s Run. It’s certainly as bleak as Soylent Green but is a far more down to Earth sci-fi movie. In fact, if you removed the alien scenes involving Newton ’s family it wouldn’t seem much of a sci-fi film at all.

The story is just as relevant, perhaps more so than it was in 1976. We can easily relate to Newton ’s dilemma; his planet dying of drought potentially because of his kind’s technology.It's heavy on allegory and some have compared it to the life of Howard Hughes, as in the alien begins as an inventor full of fresh ideas at that time only to fall into a life governed by alcohol. Roeg's trademark style of shifting the narrative back and forth in time is evident here. At one point we're not sure that Newton's family are still alive; or is it Newton's imagination?

What Roeg doesn't have a handle on in this movie is the eroticism. We observe most of the characters in some form of sexual activity but the results onscreen seem to serve no obvious purpose. If they were there to titillate the audience then the scenes fail as there is little to be turned on by the heavy handed sexual fumblings on display.

The acting provides amny of the movie's highlights. Bowie, who is not normally considered a good actor, shines in this movie, with an understated performance of a being that is struggling to come to terms with his human relationships whilst carving out an empire to save his family. Candy Clark plays an energetic performance as the woman who he chooses as a companion. Rip Torn is ever watchable as the scientist who aids Newton only to betray him.

The soundtrack captures the spirit of it but don't go looking for it, it has never been released. However, you can get hold of John Phillips's album Pussycat, which contains some of the music.

It’s beautifully shot and the Blu-Ray disc shows off Anthony Richmond’s photography very well, especially the scenes in New Mexico . It’s clear and crisp and it almost felt like I was watching the movie for the first time. It's worth picking up if you're a fan or curious about a definitive space oddity.

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