The Man Who Fell To Earth: Criterion Collection Strikes Again!
I recently purchased Criterion Collection’s revamped version of Nicholas Roeg’s undervalued 1976 sci-fi masterpiece, The Man Who Fell To Earth. For those who are fans of David Bowie (especially Thin White Duke era Bowie), The Man Who Fell To Earth fulfils everything you could want out of a science fiction film starring a gaunt, coke induced Bowie: full frontal nudity, excessive drinking, revolvers, and some scenes that have all three going on at once!
In my eyes, it was obvious why Criterion restored this film and released a 2-disc collectors edition: The Man Who Fell to Earth is a genre hybrid that displays the decay of modern American culture with both a dramatic and satirical tone while simultaneously exploring the frailty of the human condition in an unsettling, prophetic way. It is a film that marches to the beat of it’s own drum, and not the audiences expectations of what that drum should sound like, and what beat it should fall on; unapologetic in it’s loose narrative, visceral in it’s graphical editing, and schizophrenic in it’s tone. It also contains fantastic performances from both David Bowie and a young Rip Torn.
I watched the film for the first time recently with my good friends, which included Chris Hamby, Eddie O’Keefe, Greta Salpeter, and Katie Ryan. Some of them fell asleep, some kept looking at their watch, some wondered why all the penises in the movie were so ghostly pale…in general, everyone gave The Man Who Feel To Earth a big thumbs down. In their defense, it’s not an easy film to watch. Besides clocking in at over two hours, the film does contain a lot of dated special effects, half-hearted allusions and metaphors, and you often are unsure of where the direction of the film is going. It’s not for everyone, but I loved it, and you may dig it too. The Criterion Collection contains a fantastic essay written by film scholar, Graham Fuller. If you click HERE, you can read the whole essay (which I would strongly suggest doing), but here is a great exert by Mr. Fuller:
“How strange your trains are,” Newton says in one of his many reflective moments. They thread through the movie, connoting the passage of time, the kind of fulfilling future that Mary-Lou suspects is closed to her (as she walks toward the tracks after her first date with Newton), and the doomed future that Newton knows. One of the first things he sees on Earth is a decrepit locomotive that triggers a memory of the futuristic little engine he boarded as he set out on his journey to the “present.” It’s a train to now but ultimately to nowhere—the one, Roeg’s glittering film implies, we’re all on. And it’s already left the station” (Fuller).
I highly recommend checking out The Man Who Fell To Earth. It’s hard to deny the fact that Criterion Collection puts together one hell of a package, and The Man Who Fell to Earth is no exception.