David Bowie’s greatest screen moment sees him team up with fellow Brit, Nicolas Roeg, for this visionary, outsider take on America. Released in 1976 and based upon the cult novel by Walter Tevis, The Man who Fell to Earth places Bowie in the role of Thomas Jerome Newton, a humanoid alien come to earth in order to collect resources to take back to his home planet.
Arriving with nothing more than a pocket full of pawnable wedding rings, Newton enlists the help of Buck Henry’s patent attorney in order to capitalise upon the advanced technology of his people and, in turn, fund his return journey. However, it isn’t long before he perils of wealth, exposure and the modern world threaten his freedom and his chances of making it home to the family he left behind.
Something of a specialist in translating rock star charisma to the big screen, three of director Nicolas Roeg’s very best films featured musicians in starring roles. By the time he cast Bowie, the director had already found success in casting Mick Jagger as a reclusive rock star in his 1970 debut film, Performance, and he would follow The Man to Fell to Earth with Bad Timing, a disturbing study of possession and desire starring Art Garfunkel as Theresa Russell’s obsessive lover.
One senses that the waiflike Newton’s implacable otherworldliness and sheer, vivid loneliness run deep within Bowie.
Of the three films though, Bowie’s performance stands out as something beyond the reach of other actors and it is impossible to imagine that The Man Who Fell to Earth could have been made with anybody else. Roeg once claimed in an interview with The Telegraph that he “really came to believe that Bowie was a man who had come to Earth from another galaxy.” Sporting a shock of red hair, one senses that the waiflike Newton’s implacable otherworldliness and sheer, vivid loneliness run deep within Bowie and, indeed, it is hard not to feel this already tragic film with a new poignancy in the wake of the musician’s death earlier this year.
HOME will be screening Studiocanal’s new 4K restoration of the film, which was completed with the approval of cinematographer Anthony Richmond.