Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Man Who Fell to Earth

The other day I wrote a review of Wise Blood, a Criterion Collection movie I didn't like based on a Flannery O'Conner book I didn't like.  The Man Who Fell to Earth is another Criterion Collection movie.  Based on Walter Tevis's sci-fi novel of the same name, which I liked better than Wise Blood (review here), the movie is terrible.  I hated it even more than Wise Blood.  Another strike for the Criterion Collection.  Or, Criterion Collection fans might say, another strike for me.

The first part of the movie stays pretty true to the novel.  Thomas Newton, a humanoid alien, falls to earth and blends in.  The casting here is perfect: the humanoid David Bowie.  Newton obtains patents for alien technology, becomes extremely wealthy, then commences work on a space ship to take him to his home planet and bring his family back to earth.
To a certain extent, the film does capture some of the spirit of the book, but, true to its mid-1970s release, falls into a psychadlic trip.  Too many of the scenes pass into nonsensical, moody silliness.  And, true to the hippie free-love culture (and to director Nicolas Roeg's tendency to make highly sexualized films), Newton's relationship with Mary-Lou, platonic in the book, is a steamy affair.  And maybe it's just my reading, but the movie seems to make Newton's fall into decadence more of a fall into evil. 

In some people's estimation, certainly in the estimation of the Criterion, this is a classic.  In my estimation, no.

Bottom line, 1 star.

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