Wednesday, 20 January 2016
The Man who fell to Earth (5 Stars)
It's not often that I watch the same film twice in quick succession. It was only nine days ago that I watched "The man who fell to Earth". Click here to read my review. Nine days ago I watched the film to remember David Bowie. Today I watched it for the sake of the film itself. I can imagine that I'll return to watch it repeatedly over the next few years.
I didn't intend to write about David Bowie himself in this review, but it's difficult not to. He's inseparable from the film. He makes it what it is. His performance is detached, shy, elusive. This is what the man himself was. In his first concert performances in 1970 Bowie was criticised for not putting on a stage show. He just stood motionless on the stage and sang. That was the real Bowie. That was how he was in himself. He was introverted. He was overwhelmed by having hundreds of people staring at him. His managers and advisers must have told him that this wasn't good for business, so after the release of "Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars" his image changed. He didn't just sing about Ziggy Stardust, he became Ziggy Stardust. He wore sparkly outfits and he danced on stage. He became a real rock star. If he wasn't an extrovert he could at least play the part.
David Bowie was never Ziggy Stardust. That was just acting. David Bowie was the man who fell to Earth. He was the shy awkward man who spoke little and thought a lot.
Nicolas Roeg's directing is magnificent. He has a story to tell, but he just tells it in bits and pieces, leaving large gaps for the viewer to figure out for himself. The film covers a long period of time. 30 years, maybe 40. We're not told how long it is, and it's not really relevant. We see the people in Bowie's life growing older while he stays the same, forever young. There I am again, calling him by his real name, not Thomas Newton as he's known in the film. I can't help it.
I hardly said anything about the plot in my last review, so I'll make up for it here. An alien flies to Earth in search of water for his dying world. He lands in Haneyville, New Mexico. He carries a fake British passport and a large number of gold rings, which he sells in different stores to avoid attention. Once he has enough money he presents a list of inventions to a patent lawyer in New York. He founds World Enterprises, which becomes America's largest company. He's making money to finance the building of a new space ship with which he can return to his planet.
Bowie's time on Earth doesn't leave him unscarred. He embarks on a relationship with Mary-Lou, a hotel room cleaner. She introduces him to alcohol, which he refuses at first, but as time goes by he drinks more and more to overcome the boredom. He has too much money and nothing to do, since he doesn't actually work, having delegated everything in his company to his chief employees.
Can a company grow bigger than the American government? Is it permissible? In the film it isn't. At first government officials are sent to use friendly persuasion to make World Enterprises downsize. When this fails strong-arm tactics such as murder are used. The film was made in 1976. Over the next 30 years a company called Microsoft grew to have a position of power unprecedented in American history. On paper it looks smaller than other companies like Walmart and various car manufacturers, but by positioning itself in the growing computer market Microsoft became more influential than any other company. There have been highly publicised trials against Microsoft because of its unfair business practises towards its competitors, but we don't know what else has happened behind closed doors. If Microsoft ever shrinks it will probably be due to competition from other companies like Google, or the result of risky investments.
It might surprise some people to hear that "The man who fell to Earth" was remade in 1987. If you don't believe me, here's the proof. Why? Supposedly the remake was closer to the original novel, but I haven't seen it and I don't want to. For me there's only one man who fell to Earth, and his name isn't Lewis Smith.