The Man Who Fell to Earth

Movie Information

In Brief: To mark the passing of David Bowie, the Asheville Film Society is showing Nicolas Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976). Despite the fact that this is every inch a Nicolas Roeg film, it is also a film that is unthinkable with anyone other than Bowie. The film is based on a 1963 novel by Walter Tevis, but it almost plays like a film about Bowie — or, at least, one about our perception of him. Bowie plays Thomas Jerome Newton, an alien from a never-identified planet who pretty much literally falls to Earth (at least, from what we see). He arrives with nine basic patents, which quickly transform him into a very wealthy individual. (Note the word "individual," because that’s key to understanding the film's perspective on big business.) The story then simply follows Newton's fate on Earth, suggesting much and telling little. I intend to tell very little of the plot either, because viewers should discover on their own what drives — and distracts — Newton. So much of the effect Roeg achieves with Newton’s other-worldliness is deeply grounded in this quality being part of Bowie's own persona. (Roeg used Mick Jagger's persona in Performance in much the same way.) Everything about Bowie, especially at the time the film was made, was so foreign that he might have been from another planet. A deeply astonishing film from the waning days of the "director as superstar."
Genre: Science Fiction
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Starring: David Bowie, Candy Clark, Rip Torn, Buck Henry, Bernie Casey
Rated: NR

The Asheville Film Society will screen The Man Who Fell to Earth Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville, hosted by Xpress movie critic Ken Hanke.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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4 thoughts on “The Man Who Fell to Earth

  1. T.rex

    Great one. I love films that don’t spoon feed anything to the audience. They are too few and very far between now.

    • Ken Hanke

      The director’s cut. I don’t even think the old theatrical cut is still available. Why would it be? The main objection was simply time and Bowie’s willy illuminated by gunfire.

  2. T.rex

    I hate that Im missing this (and others). The downside of rehearsing many plays but I’ll be back. Enjoy everyone!

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