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Tuesday, 19 April 2016

The 7th Hall Of Fame Inductee Representing Science-Fiction/Fantasy Film - The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976) - Nicolas Roeg

It’s hard to know where to start whenever you talk about Nicolas Roeg’s 1976 masterpiece The Man Who Fell To Earth. Adapted from the 1963 novel by Walter Tevis (who, incidentally, wrote another all-time great masterpiece of science-fiction, 1980’s Mockingbird), though the author’s influence is there, this is a definitively Nic Roeg film. Working from Paul Mayersberg’s highly ambitious screenplay, the former DP Roeg applies his understanding of the power that images have upon the workings of the mind, full of cryptic details and ellipsis, beautifully shot by Anthony B. Richmond and immaculately edited by Graham Clifford. As such, even with its relatively lengthy running time, the viewer is always occupied with attempting to piece together and make sense of the overall picture. On repeat viewing, every single time I’ve noticed another little detail which throws up my previous understanding of the film. The soundscape is equally kaleidoscopic, if such a term can be used to describe music. Co-ordinated by John Philips of The Mamas And The Papas, whose music crew included the likes of Mick Taylor on guitar, the full soundtrack features songs written for the film by Philips, heavy, emotive use of Stomu Yamashta’s work, stock music, and others such as Louis Armstrong, Roy Orbison, Steely Dan, Joni Mitchell and Bing Crosby. Finally, though the supporting players, even in small capacities, are uniformly strong (specifically Candy Clark, Rip Torn and Buck Henry), the film is anchored by the central performance of David Bowie. In one of my personal favorite screen performances, you’d think from the natural way in which he carries himself that Bowie had been doing this his whole life, and yet it’s his first screen role. Utterly dedicated, charming, mysterious and ultimately devastating, it’s another testament to the talents of the lately lamented genius. Being the first UK film made in the States with entirely American funding, even Roger Ebert who was originally sniffy about it, admitted in the 2011 re-release, “projects this ambitious are no longer possible in the mainstream movie industry.” It’s a fantastic treasure of a film, and you’ll enjoy yourselves figuring it out.

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