The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

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Sci-Fi - Drama | 139 minutes
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Thomas Jerome Newton is a humanoid alien who comes to Earth to get water for his dying planet. He starts a high technology company to get the billions of dollars he needs to build a return spacecraft, and meets Mary-Lou, a girl who falls in love with him. He does not count on the greed and ruthlessness of business here on Earth, however.

Omdat zijn planeet kampt met een ernstig tekort aan water, reist Thomas Jerome Newton af naar de Aarde. Zijn ruimteschip gaat echter verloren bij de landing, waardoor hij eerst een bedrijf moet opzetten om zijn terugkeer te kunnen financieren. Totdat hij voldoende geld heeft verzameld is hij gedwongen op Aarde te blijven, waarbij aanpassingsproblemen hem parten spelen.

In Nicolas Roeg's sci-fi tale based on the novel by Walter Tevis, a humanoid alien from a dried-up husk of a planet falls to Earth in a spaceship--and later falls again metaphorically through alcohol abuse and the manipulations of a hostile culture. Arriving as a secret ambassador from a dying world, the masquerading Mr. Newton (David Bowie) patents several basic devices, including a self-developing color film and music recordings in the shape of small silver balls, in order to amass the tremendous capital necessary to build a spaceship. Along the way he solicits the help of a crack patent lawyer (Buck Henry) and...
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a country-fried small-town girl (Candy Clark) who introduces him to gin, which he soon begins to substitute for his customary glass of water. Newton debates the reality of returning to his dead world only to have the choice made for him when he is swept from the launchpad by government agents. After serving his time with men in black, he is released, blinded by x rays, into the world. As a last drunken hurrah, he records an album under the name the Visitor with the hope that it may someday be broadcast and heard by his family and friends back home.

Connected throughout by intercut clips of television programs, classic movies, and film soundtracks, THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH is an fine example of the postmodern technique of work referring to its own medium and history. Like much 1970s sci-fi, it is heavily indebted to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY; a scene in which an upset tray of cookies is juxtaposed with flying bodies echoes the film's flying bone and spaceship. Juxtaposing the free love enjoyed by Dr. Bryce (Rip Torn) with post-Altamont, pre-Reagan paranoia, Roeg's film manages to be at once artistically groundbreaking and a crystallization of the post-Summer of Love era.
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Based on a novel by Walter Tevis, The Man Who Fell to Earth achieved cult film status for David Bowie's performance as Thomas Jerome Newton, aka "Mr. Sussex," and the imagery of director Nicholas Roeg, a former cinematographer. In this deeply allegorical science-fiction drama, Newton is an alien from a planet that is dying for lack of water, and he has been sent to earth to find a way to ship some of the earth's plentiful supply to his home planet. He arrives with a human-looking disguise, his knowledge of unusual technologies, his despair, and little else. Using his knowledge, he takes out patents on "his" inven...
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tions, aided by patent lawyer Oliver Farnsworth (Buck Henry). He skillfully parlays the money from these inventions and becomes a financial/industrial tycoon. These inventions, and others like them, along with his political and financial power, should make possible the transfer of water to his planet. But instead of pressing forward with plans to save his home planet, he becomes enamored of Earth's low-down ways and of his strange, passive relationship with his elevator-operator girlfriend, Mary Lou (Candy Clark). Meanwhile, his phenomenal rise from anonymity to power, and his eccentric behavior, spark the government's interest. Chemistry professor Nathan Bryce (Rip Torn) also comes calling, fascinated by the alien's history. As gin and despair slowly cripple him, he becomes consumed by memories of life on his doomed planet. The longer (140 minutes) and sexier British version of this film was toned down for its American release. Roeg, whose work has received polarized responses, also directed such distinctively stylized movies as Walkabout (1971) and Don't Look Now (1973).
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