Still watching the music-oriented movies. We haven't watched The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) since - since it came out? I'm pretty sure I watched it in college, which is where I was in 1976, so I guess that's right. Ms. Spenser and I weren't really an item then, so I guess we saw it separately. We couldn't really remember much, except that it was pretty depressing. So we queued it up!
The plot is simple in outline, elusive in detail. David Bowie shows up in a pawn shop in some god-forsaken US desert town, selling his wedding ring. Later we see that he has a lot of these rings. I guess he got a good price for them, because we next see him offering patent attorney Buck Henry a pile of cash to represent him. It turns out that Bowie has at least seven basic patents, worth millions. Only millions, asks Bowie, disappointed.
It turns out that he is an alien from another planet, where he has a wife and children. But there is no water - he needs enough money to build a spaceship to take water back to his planet. In the meantime, he meets young Candy Clark, a hotel bellhop who befriends him, teaches him to drink gin, and takes him to bed. As the years go on, life on Earth wears on Bowie. He retreats to the desert to keep the voices out of his head, and dulls his feelings with TV and gin. He hires scientist Rip Torn, a college professor who likes to sleep with his co-eds to manage his industrial enterprises.
All of this wears on Bowie's alien. His spaceship is ready for launch, he is ready to go and then... Something happens, it isn't clear what. Buck Henry is killed. Bowie is weak and confused, trapped and detached. Years go by. One of the guys who locked Bowie up raises biracial kids. Candy Clark marries Rip Torn, gets old, visits Bowie for some pistol sexplay.. Bowie never changes, just becomes irrelevant. In the end, - SPOILER - nothing is resolved.
The movie gets by on it's striking imagery, including the amazing special effect that is David Bowie's face. It's pretty restrained for Nic Roeg. The music is interesting, but not Bowie - the music Bowie was planning to contribute went to the album Low. John "Papa" Philips did the music direction, with some interesting pop numbers, from Roy Orbison to Joni Mitchell, a few obvious numbers like Holst's Planets and Artie Shaw's version of Stardust. Philips contributes some pretty anonymous numbers, but the most interesting numbers are from Japanese percussionist Stomu Yamashta - Some were almost Grateful-Dead-like.
It turns out that Bowie's alienation and exhaustion were due to a very bad coke habit, so, method acting. I don't expect you to like this movie much unless you're a Bowie fan. Also, it isn't very uplifting - kind of a bummer, really.