By Steve D. Stones
"The strange thing about television is that it tells you nothing. It shows you everything." - Thomas Newton (David Bowie)
David Bowie was truly a unique artist who constantly reinvented himself and perfromed in a range of styles and genres. His theatrical and androgynist appearance made him perfect for the role of an alien who crashes to earth in The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976).
The Man Who Fell To Earth is a strange, surreal 70s sci-fi epic. Bowie is perfect in the role of an frail alien who crashes on earth to find water for his planet to save his small family. He tells many humans he encounters that his name is Sussex, but goes by the name Thomas Newton when he starts up his own Corporation - World Enterprises.
World Enterprises starts out as a camera and electronics business, but later evolves into a space program. Newton builds a spaceship to get back to his dry planet. The film is filled with interesting flashback sequences with Newton on his planet in a space suit surrounded by his family and a flying house.
While on earth, Newton becomes obsessed with American television and spends lots of time watching many TVs in a room all by himself. His behaviors evolve into drinking heavily and wild sex with Mary Lou, a housekeeper he met in a hotel elevator.
Mary Lou helps Newton after he faints in the elevator with a nose bleed. She nurses him back to health, and the two become lovers who purchase a cabin in the woods with a giant telescope so Newton can watch his planet.
The film is said to be a commentary on the dangerous excesses of the American lifestyle and the greed of capitalism - a message which resonates more broadly in today's world of bank bailouts, a shrinking middle-class and income inequality.
The film also dares to suggest that perhaps no one is strong willed enough to resist the temptations and distrations of television, greed, sex and alcohol consumption, which may be a bit naive and arrogant.
Based on Walter Tevis's novel and later remade for television in 1987, The Man Who Fell To Earth may have borrowed its plot from Robert Heinlein's Strangers In A Strange Land.