David Bowie’s relationship with the cinema was a bit up and down (he once described his appearance in one ill-received Just A Gigolo as “my thirty-two Elvis Presley films rolled into one”), but on the occasions he got the right vehicle he was brilliant.
Nobody disagrees that his greatest moment was playing the alien Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell To Earth. Nic Roeg’s jagged, unblinking directing style seemed to fit Bowie well, and his performance – disorientated, fey and callous – was clearly not too removed from his then own state of mind as a coked-up, alienated British rock star in the dead Los Angeles of the 1970s.
The film itself is more than just a vehicle for Bowie. It’s a parable about human greed, and loss, and frailty, with excellent performances from Rip Torn and Candy Clark. Roeg’s direction is extraordinary, and the script is both creepy and witty (“I’m not an astronomer,” says Newton, asked to point out his home planet. “But somewhere… down there…”). It also has an excellent soundtrack by John Phillips.
The Man Who Fell To Earth is an essential film for anyone. This new edition is fully restored and comes with the addition of many interviews and featurettes.