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The Man Who Fell to Earth(1976)
The Man Who Fell to Earth is a daring exploration of science fiction as an art form. The story of an alien on an elaborate rescue mission provides the launching pad for Nicolas Roeg’s visual tour de force, a formally adventurous examination of alienation in contemporary life. Rock legend David Bowie, in his acting debut, completely embodies the title role, while Candy Clark, Buck Henry, and Rip Torn turn in pitch-perfect supporting performances. The film’s hallucinatory vision was obscured in the American theatrical release, which deleted nearly twenty minutes of crucial scenes and details. The Criterion Collection is proud to present Roeg’s full uncut version, in this exclusive new director-approved high-definition widescreen transfer
For more about The Man Who Fell to Earth and The Man Who Fell to Earth Blu-ray release, see The Man Who Fell to Earth Blu-ray Review
Starring: David Bowie, Candy Clark, Rip Torn, Buck Henry, Bernie Casey
Director: Nicolas Roeg
» See full cast & crew
The Man Who Fell to Earth Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, November 28, 2008
A complex, stylish, and uncharacteristically beautiful film about a lonely alien roaming the Earth, Nic Roeg's "The Man Who Fell To Earth" launched David Bowie's acting career. In 1976 it was also nominated for Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. The film arrives on Blu-ray Courtesy of Criterion. Region-A "locked".
Thomas Newton (David Bowie, Just a Gigolo, The Hunger), an alien from another dimension, arrives on Earth to seek water supply for his dying planet. Looking and talking like a normal human being, he quickly amasses great wealth by patenting a number of groundbreaking technologies. While visiting New Mexico, he also befriends the bubbly Mary-Lou (Candy Clark, American Graffiti, Blue Thunder).
Mary-Lou quickly falls for Thomas. The two spend plenty of time together and even though he isn't as enthusiastic about their relationship as she is, they begin to act as a couple. Eventually, the alien reveals itself to Mary-Lou and attempts to explain why he is visiting Earth. Around the same time, his corporation begins to crumble.
I saw Nic Roeg's The Man Who Fell To Earth in the mid 80s. I cannot recall exactly when, but I remember perfectly well the effect Bowie's notorious transformation had on me -- it was quite a shock, one that I can only compare to what I experienced when the British media published a series of articles about his fascination with the neo-Nazi movement. So it is only natural that each time I revisit The Man Who Fell To Earth, I inevitably end up thinking about Bowie's past.
A lot of the negative reviews The Man Who Fell To Earth received in Europe were written by critics who could not quite figure out its genre identity -- it was too serious and too far-reaching for a sci-fi film and too unconventional to be a conventional drama. In other words, it did not fit into the stereotypical mold of their thinking and they dismissed it.
In America, The Man Who Fell To Earth also received mixed reviews. Interestingly enough, American critics saw a different version of the film their British colleagues had seen -- the official U.S. theatrical version was cut by approximately twenty minutes. And it wasn't until much later that director Roeg's complete version of The Man Who Fell To Earth was made available to American audiences; but even then many people, including the film's U.S. distributor, didn't seem terribly impressed by its unorthodox narrative.
Things are a lot different nowadays. The Man Who Fell To Earth still raises eyebrows but for different reasons. Most critics agree that the film is a brilliant satire on corporate societies, and profit-obsessed America in particular, as well as human fascination with greed, violence and self-destruction.
I must admit that my take on the film has also evolved rather substantially. There was a time when I thought that Bowie's transformation, for instance, was suggestive of his radical socio-political views, obsession with spirituality and frustration with the then-modern world. In the film he is in a relationship with a beautiful young woman, but emotionally they never connect. He is incredibly wealthy and powerful but always lonely. In real life, Bowie was also incredibly lonely.
In recent years, however, I've also come to realize that The Man Who Fell to Earth is indeed a highly stylized satire on our corrupted world, sort of the flip side of the equally atmospheric Walkabout. It is a beautiful and poetic but at the same time enormously pessimistic film.
Note: In 1976, The Man Who Fell to Earth won Golden Scroll Award for Best Actor (David Bowie), which was granted by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films.
The Man Who Fell to Earth Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC, and granted a 1080p transfer Nic Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
If you love this film, I am certain you must have gone through a fair share of different SDVD editions. The old Anchor Bay disc, the initial Criterion release, the rerelease, perhaps even the UK disc, all of these were considered a good buy at a certain point during DVD's boom. As one of my dear friends likes to say though: it is time to retire them all!
The Man Who Fell To Earth has been granted a terrific treatment with this new Blu-ray release. The contrast, as expected, is incredibly strong. In fact, the Blu-ray transfer impressively outdoes the SDVD version with its strong and very detailed visuals where Anthony B. Richmond's cinematography simply shines. The panoramic vistas from America's countryside are exceptionally strong and, as far as I am concerned, way more impressive than anything we have previously seen on SDVD. The color-scheme on the other hand differs significantly from what the Anchor Bay disc showed us. Here, the greenish tint from the Anchor Bay release is replaced by red-er hues which appear to be affecting the entire composition of the film. I looked at the back cover for the Criterion disc to see whether or not this release has been supervised by the director and, as expected, I see that in fact the high-definition transfer has been approved by Nic Roeg. With other words, this means that what we see on this Blu-ray transfer is indeed what the director intended. Furthermore, The Man Who Fell To Earth also reveals a healthy dose of film grain which film purists will surely appreciate. In fact, blown through a digital projector The Man Who Fell To Earth looks exceptionally strong and probably as film-like as possible. This being said, I did not see any examples of DNR manipulation to report here, just pure film imagery. Dust, debris, and scratches have also been eliminated and, again, I must conclude that this is the best possible presentation of Nic Roeg's film that you could get on a media format. (Note: As announced by Criterion, this is indeed a Region-A only release, which you will not be able to play on your Region-B hardware).
The Man Who Fell to Earth Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Man Who Fell To Earth arrives on Blu-ray with an English uncompressed stereo track. The clarity of sound here is exceptional. The dialog in particular is crystal clear and very easy to follow. One could easily tell that serious restoration work has been done as the audio quality is hardly something I would describe as typical for a 32-year old film. This being said, the lovely music score is also very strong and perfectly blended with the dialog. Those of you who have seen The Man Who Fell To Earth know perfectly well that the film boasts a very delicate soundtrack with memorable retro-ambient overtones, which the uncompressed stereo track treats magnificently. I don't want to spoil the film for those who are yet to see it, but there is a large lovemaking scene during the second half, right after an important revelation is made at the lake house, where the music has a very specific role. Suffice to say, the delicate ambient tunes I heard from my speakers were of quality I am having a difficult time describing with simple words. Great job Criterion! Finally, I must note that I did not detect any hissings, pop-ups, or cracks. English subtitles are provided for the main feature.
The Man Who Fell to Earth Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Before we get to the extras on the Blu-ray disc, I would like to point your attention to the lovely booklet Criterion have provided for this release. In it you will find an informative essay by Graham Fuller (a New York-based film critic who contributes to Film Comment, Sight & Sound, and Vanity Fair) titled "Loving The Alien". The essay offers a lovely analysis of The Man Who Fell To Earth and explains some of the challenges Nic Roeg's work might present to viewers unfamiliar with the director's style preferences. There is also a lovely poem, Musee Des Beaux Arts, by W. H. Auden written in December, 1938.
On the actual BD there are a number of interesting, and exclusive to the Criterion release, extras. First there is an interview with screenwriter Paul Mayersberg which was recorded in Paris, France in May, 2005. There are some very interesting comments here about Walter Tevis' novel and the manner in which it was filmed. More importantly, The Man Who Fell To Earth, is granted a quite fascinating dissection proving, in my opinion, that the film is impossible to classify, or attach to a specific genre if you will. Next there is an interview with Walter Tevis, conducted by Don Swaim for his "Book Beat" CBS show in 1984, where the writer talks about "speculative fiction". Next is yet another exclusive interview titled "Performance - Candy Clarke and Rip Torn", conducted in May/June 2005 in Los Angeles. Here the actors discuss the script, the rich characters of the story, how the film was cut to pieces in America, the success it had in the UK, and what it meant for the two actors to work with Nic Roeg. Next production designer Brian Eatwell and costume designer May Routh discuss their contribution to The Man Who Fell To Earth in an audio interview recorded for the Criterion collection in April 2005. Next is a gallery of trailers and TV spots for the main feature. Immediately after it, you will see a second gallery containing photographs by David James (with an audio introduction), Nic Roeg's Continuity Book, Si Litvinoff's snapshots, and Nic Roeg's poster gallery with replicas of poster art for a number of the director's famous works. Finally, on this Blu-ray disc Criterion have also provided their LD commentary with Nic Roeg, David Bowie, and Buck Henry (1992). This Blu-ray disc also features the "Timeline" option which allows you to bookmark scenes from the film and analyze them with or without the commentary mentioned above.
The Man Who Fell to Earth Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Man Who Fell To Earth is another definitive presentation of a cult classic that will surely impress plenty of serious film aficionados. What else could I say, Criterion deliver yet again! At this point, I believe, the only dilemma with the US-based distribs is how often and what titles we will be seeing on Blu-ray. I personally cannot wait to see Antonioni, Fellini, Truffaut, Godard, and Tarkovsky given the type of attention I've witnessed with Criterion's first batch of Blu-ray discs. Just thinking about what 2009 could bring us makes me tremendously excited. Very Highly Recommended!
The Man Who Fell to Earth Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Man Who Fell to Earth Blu-ray Going Out of Print - June 13, 2010
The Criterion Collection has posted a list of titles from its catalog that are going out of print effective June 30. The list includes one Blu-ray: The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976). Like The Third Man and Pierrot le fou which also went OOP recently, ...
• Today on Blu-ray - December 16th - December 16, 2008
Since the days of Laserdisc, the Criterion Collection has dedicated their efforts to collecting the greatest classic and contemporary films from around the world, and make them available to the general public at the highest quality possible. Today, they release ...
• Criterion Titles Get Delayed - November 17, 2008
Criterion Collection has announced that they have delayed their first wave of Blu-ray releases by about a month. 'Bottle Rocket', 'Chungking Express', 'The Third Man', and 'The Man Who Fell to Earth' have all been delayed until December 16th, while 'The Last Emperor' ...
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