The Man Who Fell To Earth
Though he first came to prominence as a cinematographer—shooting films such as François Truffaut’s adaptation of Fahrenheit 451—Nicolas Roeg quickly attained auteur status by directing films bristling with evocative imagery edited into a flurry of impressions (Performance, Walkabout, and Don’t Look Now). His typically kaleidoscopic adaptation of Walter Tevis’s 1963 novel is a delicate exercise in feeling and speculation. A humanoid alien disguised as an Englishman named Newton (David Bowie, in his screen debut) leaves his family on their dying home planet, lands in New Mexico, and sets up a technological corporation to fund energy research as well as a space program to rescue his loved ones. Before long, however, Newton begins to slide into the material indulgences of modern man, which threaten to stall his aspirations forever. Some critics have interpreted the story as a reverse 2001: A Space Odyssey in which Kubrick’s advanced “star child” visits the earth and devolves through contact with money, pop culture, and drugs. Contrary to Kubrick’s epic, however, The Man Who Fell to Earth is resolutely character based with only vague technological trappings. Both films weave a grand narrative in stunning natural vistas where humans and aliens meet, but Roeg’s film pivots on its vulnerable performances. Bowie achieves a tragic force with quiet sensitivity, and Rip Torn (as a disillusioned scientist) and Candy Clark (as a simpleminded hotel maid) explore complex, wounded characters who struggle to maintain their cherished values and relationships. Originally cut by more than twenty minutes for its U.S. theatrical release, it has now been fully restored.
Bing Theater | $10 general admission; $7 LACMA members, seniors (62+), and students with valid ID; $5 LACMA Film Club and Academy members | Tickets: 323 857-6010 or purchase online.