Thomas Jerome Newton carries an English passport, but he’s not from England. He’s from another planet. He’s just arrived in New Mexico with a few thousand dollars’ worth of gold rings and a plan: he needs to become a wealthy industrialist, develop space technology centuries ahead of what’s currently available on Earth, and ferry enormous quantities of water back to his drought-stricken home planet before it’s too late.
Becoming a rich industrialist isn’t that hard for him, really, because he’s got a head chock-full of futuristic technology. And because he’s able to hand pick his own team of loyal employees, he knows his instructions will be carried out to the letter while he keeps out of sight.
But Newton is about to have a close encounter with three of Earth’s biggest cultural exports: sex, alcohol and television. As if that isn’t enough, at the same time he’s also going to learn that humanity — the species he’s been forced to put a lot of trust in — isn’t that trustworthy.
Science fiction is at its best when it holds up a mirror to the human species and really shows us how we look from the outside. If we end up looking like a bunch of cruel, greedy and rapacious apes, whose fault is that?
Candy Clark, Rip Torn and Buck Henry are perfectly cast, as is David Bowie in his first film role. His Newton comes alive through little moments: the way he recoils a little in surprise when he sees his first door open, or the way he brushes his hair aside when he becomes self-conscious. This film is intelligent, tragic, deeply affecting and, of course, a little weird. But you expected that, didn’t you? –Michael Popham
The Man Who Fell To Earth screens Friday and Saturday, December 12 and 13 at 7:00 and 9:45, and Sunday, December 14, at 5:00 and 7:00, at the Trylon. Purchase tickets here.