Happy Birthday David Bowie, 67 today. There can’t be that many people who have not heard of Bowie’s music, with his incredible output of twenty six studio albums, nine live albums, and a whooping one hundred and nine singles. Part of his success has been to his constant reinvention of not only his style of musical output, but also his every changing alter-egos, from the Boy next door, David Jones, Ziggy Stardust, that scary clown from the ashes to ashes video, Thin White Duke right up to last years incarnation getting all post modern with Tilda Swinton taking on the Bowie’s character, Thomas Jerome Newton in the cult film; The Man who Fell to Earth, in the brilliant video for his single, The Stars (Are Out Tonight.)
No doubt there will be many blogs today talking about Bowie’s contribution to music, but he also has made many memorable appearances in film, including The Hunger, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Labyrinth and his film debut, The Man Who Fell to Earth.
With Bowie’s birthday in his frame of vision, The Brighton Writer sat down last night and revisited this brilliant sc-fi film, The Man Who Fell to Earth. For those who have not seen it, or have vague memories of sitting through the two hours and twenty minutes of a visual feast, here is a recap.
Thomas Jerome Newton (Bowie) is an alien from the planet, Anthea, who has come to earth in the search of water to take back to his his drought ridden planet. He has nine patents from his own advanced planet, which once put in place garners him incredible wealth. The money he raises was intended to build a space ship enabling him to return to his planet (in the book his plan was to bring his race back to earth, infiltrate key government powers and divert the human race from destroying itself with a nuclear war, as had happened on his own planet.
However, during his stay he meets a chambermaid at his hotel, a a lonely woman called Mary Lou (played brilliantly by Candy Clark). Although together their love grows and Mary Lou’s character blossoms, Newton becomes addicted to alcohol (Beef eater Gin in particular) and television, (watching several television program at once).
Despite this, Newton managers to create his spaceship, but is arrested before he can make his highly publicised maiden launch and is incarcerated in the depths of a large hotel. there he is experimented on, by officials who believes he is a fake.
After many years he is eventually released from his Imprisonment, but by now he is a chronic alcoholic and unbeknown to him, his own specious has died of drought.
What is fascinating about the film is the continuous low level pace. Even during the more violent scenes, when Newton is being tortured or his business partner is murdered, thrown out of a top floor window by two men in glittery motorcycle helmets (The whole film has a very 1970’s feel to it) as a viewer your heart races with out feeling you are being bombarded with violence, that so many modern films of this ilk insists on showing.
Bowie’s performance as an outsider, quietly looking in is pitch perfect, as is his ghostly features, framed in a shock of red hair. It was only later that Bowie confessed that he was heavily addicted to cocaine and that for the most part he had little idea of what was happening.
“I was going a lot on instinct, and my instinct was pretty dissipated. I just learned the lines for that day and did them the way I was feeling. It wasn’t that far off. I actually was feeling as alienated as that character was. It was a pretty natural performance. … a good exhibition of somebody literally falling apart in front of you.” David Bowie
It has been Bowie’s intuitive instinct that has made him one of the most influential performers for the last five decades, with little sign of that creativity stopping yet.
Happy Birthday David Bowie, a true visionary of our times.
The Man Who Fell to Earth, Trailer http://youtu.be/oKF5lHcJY9k.