It was a sad week for MNFC-ers, with the passing of two of our group’s heroes: David Bowie and Alan Rickman.
Many of the film clubbers were lucky enough to see Alan Rickman in person at the Film 4 Summer Screening of Die Hard in 2011, where he received a standing ovation from the crowd of hundreds in Somerset House. A screen legend in the eyes of the MNFC crew, we are planning a special “Rickman-ocracy” in the near future, so watch this space.
And so it was down to Jess this evening, who chose to celebrate the life of David Bowie. Luckily, she steered away from Labyrinth – and thus my singing along to every song and quoting every line – and instead chose The Man Who Fell to Earth. This film was a highlight of the BFIs recent Sci-Fi Season ‘Days of Fear and Wonder’, although sadly I didn’t have a chance to see it on the big screen then. But Jess’ brilliant choice meant that at last we all had chance to sit down and experience this most cult of films and consider its crazy 1970s bonkers storyline, and quirky performance of Mr Stardust himself.
Bowie plays Thomas Jerome Newton, who is an alien from up space. His world has become devastated by drought, and as such has been sent to Earth to bring back a supply of water. He uses his alien space knowledge to become the CEO of a powerful worldwide technology business, with the plan to accrue the money needed to build his spaceship back home and transport the water with him. However, the government becomes suspicious and interrupts his launch, abducting Thomas and subjecting him to various experiments.
Prior to this, Thomas slowly becomes accustomed to human life, thanks mostly to the relationship he develops with Mary-Lou. There is plenty of sexy-time, well, until he reveals his real form to her, and gets a bit carried away with firing blanks (no, literally!). And more importantly, lots and lots of gin… The scourge known as “Mother’s Ruin” can also be renamed “Spaceman’s Ruin” quite aptly in this film.
But in real life, it was not gin, so much as cocaine, that is the secret to Bowie’s other-worldly performance. In an interview with Movieline, he reveals that this coincided with a difficult time in his life:
“I just threw my real self into that movie as I was at that time. It was the first thing I’d ever done. I was virtually ignorant of the established procedure [of making movies], so 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. I was totally insecure with about 10 grams [of cocaine] a day in me. I was stoned out of my mind from beginning to end”
The film was directed by Nicholas Roeg, who of course also directed Don’t Look Now, winner of 2014’s MNFC Demon-ocracy. His works have proven quite divisive within the MNFC crew, and The Man Who Fell to Earth is no exception. For some it was too weird, too odd and low budget; others a timeless cult classic and an exceptionally unique central performance.
Jess’ other idea for this evening was Under the Skin; and it is interesting to consider how similar her two choices are. Both involve a lost humanoid alien living inside fake skin, have weird iconography and bizarre storylines; and are both commentaries on modern living, and of the alienation of being an outsider in certain communities. And of course both have weird alien love-goo, although Bowie’s perhaps is somewhat more explicit that Scarlett Johansson’s.
I’ll sign off from this intergalactic Tuesday Review, by leaving you in the same way as we left Jess’ house – the brilliant Flight of the Conchords’ homage to Bowie. We’ll never forget your nipple antennae. Farewell, you freaky old bastard you.
THIS IS NOT A DEMOCRACY