May 12, 2013

The Man Who Fell to Earth

An innately idiosyncratic freak-out film that people tend to either love or hate but usually nothing in between, The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) directed by British auteur Nicholas Roeg (Don’t Look Now, Track 29) is a decidedly discordant and decadent dystopian counter-culture science fiction epic undoubtedly plagued with seemingly endless plot-holes and nauseating nonsensicalness, yet it has two things that stick out distinctly—post-Ziggy Stardust David Bowie in his first starring role during the prime of his lifetime and surrealist sci-fi special-effects that seem to fall somewhere in between the poetic body fascism of Leni Riefenstahl and a proto-cyberpunk aesthetic—thus the undeniably uneven celluloid work still has managed to gain a loyal cult following since its release. Roeg’s virtual celluloid equivalent to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and all the more pessimistic in its depiction of the seemingly forsaken future of man and technology than Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi masterpiece, The Man Who Fell to Earth—in its incessant depiction of modern dandy Bowie drinking gin and juice and watching multiple boobtubes (while displaying little or no actual interest in real boobs)—is also probably the only science fiction work that can help inspire alcoholics and television lemmings to kick their pathetic habits as a sharply scathing indictment of the many of vices that plague modern man. Featuring not a single character who does not have some sort of physical and/or metaphysical affliction, including pathological materialism, workaholism, miscegenation, homosexuality, mindless hedonism, and virtually every other incapacitating excess imaginable, The Man Who Fell to Earth features an androgynous alien who slowly but surely learns America has everything, everything aside from a organic kultur and a soul. Somewhat loosely based on the 1963 sci-fi Walter Tevis of the same name and featuring a protagonist somewhat reminiscent of the anti-hero of Oscar Wilde’s sole novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) in that, despite his hyper hedonism and moral decay, he never physically ages, The Man Who Fell to Earth is a film that quite blatantly, if not beauteously, drives home the allegorical message that in America, even wealthy space aliens suffer from the distinct alienation and inner feeling of worthlessness that Americanism sows. 

 Both an illegal alien and a space alien, sensory sensitive extraterrestrial humanoid Thomas Jerome Newton (David Bowie), although having a passport and accent that make him seem to be of the British persuasion, has just landed on earth from the faraway planet Anthea in the hope of obtaining water as his arid desert home planet is suffering from a terrible drought that is threatening the lives of his family, which includes a wife and two kids. Mr. Newton’s first act of original sin is pawning his wedding ring for a mere $20, thus soon realizing that everything in America has a price, no matter how intrinsically or sentimentally valuable to the individual. Of course, with that shiny new bill with Andrew Jackson on it, Newton will sire his technocratic empire using normal technology from his own plant, but like many things about The Man Who Fell to Earth, this is never really aptly explained or depicted. Before the viewer knows it, Newton has started his own bureaucratically titled technology company “World Enterprises Corporation” and is talking to a middle-aged nerd with monstrous bifocals, a leading patent attorney named Oliver V. Farnsworth (Buck Henry), who he offers $1000.00 an hour to work for him. Before Farnsworth knows it, he reinvents his life and embraces sodomy, buying himself a live-in muscleman and, when not working hard for Newton, dedicating his life to senseless and unfulfilling hedonism like every great and successful (and not so successful) modern American. Newton has started the company so he can build a special spaceship that will enable him to ship water to his own home planet, but a number of things get in the way, including pathological hedonism and materialism, as well as enemy corporations and weirdoes working for the U.S. government. Although a happily married man to a fellow space alien, Newton starts a rather mis-matched sub-romantic relationship with a lonely and ditzy yet empathetic housemaid named Mary-Lou (played by Candy Clark, who Roeg was romantically involved with at the time). Although literally causing her to piss her panties on first revealing to her that he is really a bald extraterrestrial with reptilian eyes, Newton barely has to put any effort into making Mary-Lou fall in love with him because, after all, he is stinking rich and is equally socially retarded as she is, but he ends up leaving her anyway. Newton also hires a lecherous college professor named Dr. Nathan Bryce (Rip Torn), who has a proclivity for banging tons of his 18-year-old freshmen female students with Electra complexes, as a fuel technician and soon he becomes the alien technology mogul’s right-hand man. 

 Unfortunately, Dr. Bryce figures out Newton is a sneaky spaceman and tells the U.S. government, so right before the extraterrestrial is about to fly his finished spaceship to his home planet, his game plan and inter-galactic voyage is thwarted. Farnsworth and his bulky boy toy are killed after being thrown out their apartment and Newton is imprisoned in a lavish apartment hidden deep inside the bowels of a dilapidated apartment building. Meanwhile, Mary-Lou and Bryce, who have aged dramatically due to alcoholism and whatnot, are now a couple. During his vice-ridden imprisonment, government doctors subject Newton to a number of painful experiments in a feeble yet well funded attempt to find out if Newton is really an alien, but the stoic spaceman, who despite being given steady doses of alcohol refuses to loosen his lips, never reveals his secret. Somehow, Mary-Lou, who has gone from looking like semi-pretty virginal Christian girl to a dipsomaniac hag of the hysterical and Hebraic-like sort in the spirit of Joan Rivers, visits Newton while he is imprisoned and they have rough, nihilistic sex and the alien waves his cock and gun and they both drink like Irish fish, but both ultimately realize they do not love one another. Rather inexplicably, one day Newton realizes he can escape from his decadent apartment cell and merely walks out, thus hinting that his imprisonment was partially self-inflicted due to acute alcoholism and weakness for television. In the end, he records a rock album for his wife, who like his children, is assumedly dead. Filthy rich but suffering from perennial melancholy and drunkenness, Newton falls in a drunken stupor in his chair during a nice and sunny day as an alien victim of the American dream. 

 Regarding the Apollo 11 moon landing, scatological Jewish novelist, aesthetically-retarded Renaissance man, and attempted wife-murderer Norman Mailer, who was incidentally beaten to a bloody pulp by The Man Who Fell to Earth star Rip Torn in his own Warhol-wannabe film Maidstone (1970), wrote, “the real mission of the Wasp in history was not, say, to create capitalism, or to disseminate Christianity into backward countries…It was to get the U.S. to the moon.” Additionally, Mailer wrote regarding his hatred of the Nordic race and his assumed jealously that it was not members of his tribe that enabled man to reach outerspace and the moon, but nefarious National Socialist SS technology, “To wit, he can project himself 'extraordinary distances through a narrow path. He's disciplined, stoical, able to become the instrument of his own will, has extraordinary boldness and daring together with a resolute lack of imagination. He's profoundly nihilistic. And this nihilism found its perfect expression in the odyssey to the moon—because we went there without knowing why we went.” Indeed, Mailer’s words certainly describe the Aryan alien played by David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth in a sci-fi work that abstractly and seemingly schizophrenically portrays the American dream and space race as the drainer of all vital lifeblood. If Newton’s original plan was to save his family from very probable death, his only reason for living by the intentionally anti-climatic conclusion of The Man Who Fell to Earth was to drink another fancy alcoholic cocktail, thus radically reflecting the height of sorrow and soul-destroying internal sickness that American materialism sires. A culture-less country with an intrinsic dog-eat-dog business philosophy since its inception, America is a place where idealistic dreams devolve into banal bureaucratic nightmares or so Newton learns as he yearns for something deeper and more real that money cannot buy. In fact, Newton has all the money in the world and after watching Japanese Kabuki theatre he becomes immersed in Japanophilia, even wearing the traditional Jap garb and designing his house in a similar orientalist fashion because, like the typical low-class wigger, adderall-addled autistic anime fan, and xenophiliac limp-wrist bourgeois white leftist that are quite prominent in today's America, he finds nothing of intrinsic cultural value (i.e. art, literature, and clothing) in the gloriously culturally-retarded USA and is incessantly searching for something to fill the void, including sex, drugs, rock n roll, dated films, and the fruits of ancient foreign cultures, but, of course, he learns that nothing can replace the real-thing, especially when it comes to something as organic as kultur, which American consumerism and cosmopolitanism have replaced. 

 As Mary-Lou states to Newton in a feeble attempt to get him to stay on planet earth, “This country is rich…we have everything,” yet the sulky spaceman, despite his infinite wealth, only finds endless misery after endless misery until he has totally given up on his virtuous campaign to save his family and planet, thereupon making The Man Who Fell to Earth what is very possibly the most esoterically, if not oftentimes asininely so, one of the most anti-American science fiction flicks ever made. Featuring scenes of alien Newton, who is able to live simultaneously in different time zones, seeing dirty and barbaric white settlers from America's colonial past past, The Man Who Fell to Earth even goes as far as portraying the roots of America as being sown in sin and savagery. Quite ironically, the film features a number of poetic montages of human and alien bodies in flight that were unquestionably modeled after National Socialist auteuress Leni Riefenstahl’s two-part epic documentary in beauteous body worship Olympia (1940). Of course, curious cuckold auteur Nicholas Roeg, who has always shown an undying commitment to ethno-masochism and xenophilia as expressed in flirting and naked swimming sessions of a white teenage Australian girl and a black Aboriginal “noble savage” in his early work Walkabout (1971), displays a similar merry fetishism towards miscegenation in The Man Who Fell to Earth in a scene featuring a muscular and naked Negro buck manhandling his white wife, who the Sambo Übermensch  has mongrel children with. Undoubtedly, if there is any true American tradition, it is the nation’s history of deracinating people and destroying their culture and mixing their blood and The Man Who Fell to Earth certainly depicts such a truly postmodern scenario, where an eccentric extraterrestrial with a firm commitment to family and nation planet morphs into a alcohol-addled, TV-addicted, hyper hedonist who ultimately barely has enough energy to do much more than slouching in a desk. While The Man Who Fell to Earth might be the first and only film to fully expose David Bowie’s emaciated holocaust survivor-esque body and shriveled Starman member, it doubt the film will be exciting to all those women who dreamed of the glam rocker’s cock after seeing him in kitschy tight in the Labyrinth (1986) as young girls, but it an aesthetically hypnotic and out-of-this-world celluloid work that provides much rotten food for apocalyptic thought. As the great German philosopher Oswald Spengler wrote in his short work Man and Technics: A Contribution to a Philosophy of Life (1931)—one of the first critiques ever written on technology that prophesizes Occidental civilization will be destroyed by materialism and technocratic wars with opposing nations—regarding the effects of technology and the industrial revolution on European mean: “As once the microcosm Man against Nature, so now the microcosm Machine is revolting against Nordic Man. The lord of the world is becoming the slave of the Machine. Their strength is bound up with the existence of coal.” While I doubt Nicholas Roeg is a fan of and/or has ever written anything written by Spengler, I think the filmmaker would agree with the Teutonic thinker’s thought on technology as expressed in The Man Who Fell to Earth—a patently pessimistic celluloid work where a wealthy Nordic spaceman becomes a slave to virtually every vice known to man as a result of his super sophisticated understanding of technology yet sheer and utter lack of culture, family, and a moral compass.   If there is anything to be learned from watching The Man Who Fell to Earth, it is once an individual has navigated their way to the USA, it is nearly impossible for one to find their way back, at least on a spiritual level.

-Ty E

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