INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Creem SEPTEMBER 1976 - by Trixie A. Balm
PERSONA NON GRATA AD ASTRA
The Man Who Fell To Earth - Directed by Nicolas Roeg; Starring: David Bowie, Rip Torn, Candy Clark, Buck Henry...
"Seen the new Bowie movie?"
"Yeah, it was okay. Whadya think?" It's late Monday night, summertime. Three or four college students are hanging out, and during a sag in conversation, the Lit major in a blue blazer mentions the latest Nicholas Roeg venture into finer (Art) filmmaking, The Man Who Fell To Earth, a.k.a. The New Bowie Movie.
"Allegorically, it was ingenious -"
"Oh. Well, my impression - from all the hype - was that the flick was mostly just that: hype. Kinda harmlessly artsy-fartsy. But allegorically?... "the sneakered Poli-sci student puzzled.
"Wha? You couldn't figure out what that whole movie was an allegory for, from the strange smooth denuded way the people on the dying alien planet looked; the very necessity of Newton leaving, his world, but not wanting to go to earth - to the scene where Bowie - Thomas J. Newton, I mean - shows the good guy doctor where he comes from by pointing back at the earth, where he crashed - not the sky. Doesn't that give you any clues?"
"Lost me," replied the Poli-sci Bowiephile.
"Simple: it's an allegory for birth. Return to the womb, not wanting to be born, not being able to turn back once it happens... !!"
"Yeah, maybe; but ya have ta also consider the minor themes. Corruption especially - which I guess fits right in with the birth allegory. Corruption in regards to booze, money and powerlust, organized crime, the government. I mean, lookit the way liquor made Tom Newton less than a baby; a delirious trembling addict, a vegetoid loser!"
"Exactly," said the blue blazered Lit major. "So many dead giveaways in the movie, so many intricacies and nuances-fantastic film!"
The besneakered Polyscientist smirked. "Yeah, granted - but can you say you were genuinely entertained throughout? Looked to me like the editing was off in most places - like a gibbering cokefreak shot it and was let loose in the cutting room. And the soundtrack? Jesus! Too damn loud and distorted in parts for suspense and emphasis. My ears ached. And that sex scene near the beginning - Doctor Brice making it with that gorgeous coed who was snapping pictures with that camera Thomas Newton's Worldwide Enterprises came out with. That sex scene had nothing to do with the movie's plot! Probably just inserted for extra box-office appeal..."
"Okay, so a lot of stuff in that movie didn't exactly make lots of sense. Hear it's different in the book."
"Didja read it?"
"I didn't either," said Poli-sci. "Still, I'm not sure whether I liked it or not; whether Bowie's role was wooden, his acting wooden, or both. The ending dragged on interminably! You remember all that boring fluff after the climax, when Mary Lou comes into the room after Tommy changes back into his natural self; yellow cat's eyes, everything in slow motion, really scary buildup with the doorknob turning real gradual -"
The Lit major waxed thoughtful. "Yeah, yeah. Know whatcha mean about Roeg using certain superfluous segments. Like, what was that rich black gangster doing by the pool in Beverly Hills with his white girlfriend? And yeah, Bowie's acting wasn't hot shit - but wasn't he setting himself up for that role all along, with Space Oddity and the whole Ziggy-Starman trip?"
The two collegiate Bowiephiles would've critiqued hard into the night, long after the Joe Franklin (legendary blandout N.Y. talks how host) and The Late Late Show (missing out on the provocative Tom Snyder and his guests - that night's show featuring a woman with a multiple personality problem, plus a vexatious lady psychic who insisted the earth'd be getting otherworldly visitors before this year's up, mark her words). But just then, an impartial third party named Henry spoke up:
"My favorite scene was where Bowie's freakin' out, watchin' all those TVs all at once, then the movie flashes forward twenty years - catch all that timeshuttling, past, present and future - and he's lying on the bed where they kidnapped him for being an alien and somebody calls Newton 'Harry' by mistake because that's the guy's name in this '30s gangster flick on the big TV screen in the corner... That's it. Language of Social Control, through media -"
Suddenly, the other two cineastes felt sheepishly unperceptive, vowing to not judge the new Bowie/Roeg The Man Who Fell To Earth as either haute cinema success or sci-fi thriller flop until they'd seen it a second time, at least. For $3.50 a shot, first-run, they could wait.