Nicolas Roeg’s solemn, surreal sci-fi fable follows Thomas Jerome Newton (David Bowie), a humanoid alien who’s come to Earth on a mission to bring water back to his home planet, Anthea, which is being ravaged by drought. He uses alien technology to patent many inventions (with the help of his business partner, played by Buck Henry) in order to obtain funding for the construction of a massive spaceship that will transport the water back to his planet; he becomes more than a little distracted from his mission, however, when he meets Mary-Lou (Candy Clark), an Earth woman who introduces him to what will become his crippling addictions: television, alcohol and sex. Meanwhile, one of his employees (Rip Torn) learns of his true nature, which leads to the government imprisoning him in a luxury apartment where he’s poked and prodded for several years. Even though it might sound like a big studio action movie (sort of, anyway), The Man Who Fell to Earth is a slow, strange and often ponderous character study that would probably completely derail before the end of the first act were it not for the beautifully nuanced lead performance by David Bowie (who was actually stoned out of his mind on coke during the entire production). Based on the 1963 novel by Walter Tevis, who also wrote, oddly enough, The Hustler and The Color of Money.
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