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Man Who Fell to Earth, The

Following the success of Don’t Look Now, Roeg was able to embark on this expensive and ambitious project, which was the first ever British-financed movie to be shot entirely in the U.S. The source material is Walter Tevis’s science fiction novel, which Roeg and scriptwriter Paul Mayersberg use as a springboard for exploring a wealth of ideas. David Bowie plays an alien from a dying planet who comes to earth in a bid to save his family and his people. His plans are undone by his contact with humans, who betray him to the sinister forces of corporate America. The film largely ignores the rudiments of narrative exposition as Roeg pushes to extremes a cinema of sounds and images whose coherence and meaning derive from a complex series of juxtapositions, references and allusions. Bowie is the stranger in a strange land, and the key to the film is that events are seen mostly through his alien eyes, so that a familiar culture is made to look more and more unearthly and strange. Perhaps Roeg also saw the alien (who assumes an English identity) as a surrogate of himself, an Englishman with a piercing eye in an overpowering and awesome American environment.

U.K., 1976.
140 mins.

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