David Bowie is The Man Who Fell to Earth • Redux • Documentary • 2021
This is a film about a film - Nic Roeg's 1976 esoteric science fiction movie, The Man Who Fell to Earth, starring David Bowie and Candy Clark. This is a 2021 revised version of the original 2017 documentary, released now to coincide with the 45th anniversary of the movie’s premier at the Odeon Leicester Square in London, on the 18th of March 1976.
This documentary was endorsed by both Nic Roeg and Candy Clark!
For any serious student of David Bowie and his art in the Seventies, it is necessary to have a familiarity with Nic Roeg's 1976 esoteric science fiction movie The Man Who Fell to Earth, featuring Bowie in his first starring film role. Roeg's surreal movie has beguiled and baffled audiences since its release. The film explores, often in abstraction and allegory, the themes of alienation, power, love, trust and betrayal.
David Bowie is The Man Who Fell To Earth is a documentary that explores several aspects of the movie and Bowie's involvement. It looks at the way the film came together, at Roeg’s working methods, and it attempts to partly explain some of the meanings in the work. Also, it is known that Bowie and his music were greatly influenced by Roeg and the time he spent working on the film. And so David Bowie is The Man Who Fell To Earth also tries to paint a small portrait of Bowie and his music during the era – from 1974 up to the 1977 album, Low. The film also ruminates on Bowie’s missing sound track for The Man Who Fell To Earth. After the filming, Bowie worked on music that was intended for the soundtrack to the movie. Famously, that music was not used and remains almost unheard to this day. However, elements of the unused music were later incorporated into subsequent albums. And so, as part of the story telling in David Bowie is The Man Who Fell To Earth, some of Bowie’s music from the era is used with re-edits of scenes from the movie, worked in with the interviews and commentary.
00:02:00 Chapter I • All Things Begin & End in Eternity
00:13:15 Chapter II • Candy Clark & A New Career
00:26:17 Interval • How Candy Clark Saved The Man Who Fell to Earth
00:28:58 Chapter III • How Does an Alien Act?
00:41:25 Chaper IV • The Side Effects, The Sci-Fi & The Fall
00:57:20 Epilogue • What Happened to The Visitor?
David Bowie is The Man Who Fell To Earth was seen by both original director Nic Roeg himself, and by the movie’s co-star Candy Clark. Both of whom approved of it:
‘What a great documentary - so interesting.’ - Nic Roeg
‘Spectacular footage and commentary about the making of The Man Who Fell To Earth. Made me cry seeing David and listening to his pride about his work. Learned a lot that I didn't know.’ - Candy Clark
The majority of the footage used here is of course from The Man Who Fell To Earth. But in addition another approximately fifty video sources were used. Of the many interview and other audio sources used, most notable is the excellent 1991 Roeg and Bowie commentary contained on the original laserdisc release of the film.
Sixteen partial David Bowie tracks were used, as either re-imagined parts of the movie soundtrack, and also fairly gratuitously as excuses to just add some rocking tunes that had new or revised videos put together for them.
Like a lot of my video projects, this thing happened by accident. Whilst I was working on the video for Subterraneans in 2017, I decided that it would be good to have an accompanying video that compiled in a very simple way, all the relevant interviews with Bowie where he talks about the film. I imagined that at most, it would be a thing of about 15 or 20 minutes. However, as is usually the case with me, I went very deeply into it, and found a lot more material than I bargained for. It quickly became clear that here was a great story that needed to be told in film, and the thing just kept growing in size and in complexity. In the end I worked on it consistently and compulsively for about 3 months.
Along with the sourcing and the editing of the material, there was a lot of researching, in particular on Nic Roeg himself. Repeatedly listening / watching every interview I could find, I felt that I got to know a little of the workings of his creative mind, and I started to love the way he thought and expressed himself. Particularly relevant and enjoyable to me was the ’91 commentary that Roeg and Bowie, discussing TMWFTE. It really is a joy to listen to and it’s very evident that Nic and Bowie were two very smart cookies, who liked each other very much, and understood each other very well.
Nic was a genius and a visionary. He was working in the film Industry for over 20 years before he directed his first movie. And what amazing movies he made. I love every one of his run of perfect films from 1970 - 1980 - Performance, Walkabout, Don’t Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth (TMWFTE) and Bad Timing.
The opening I put together for David Bowie is The Man Who Fell to Earth, is an homage to the opening of Nic Roeg's 1980 movie, Bad Timing. Bad Timing is perhaps my favorite Roeg film - a tale of a doomed love affair, masochism, alcoholism, narcissism.
The opening of Bad Timing is set in an art gallery in Vienna, and a shot of Gustav Klimt's The Kiss. Whilst the scene unfolds Tom Waits wondrous song, "Invitation to the Blues" informs the mood of what we can expect. Art Garfunkel strolls around the room of Klimt's subtly eying up Therese Russel and Waits sings, "...wonder if she might be single, she's a loner and likes to mingle... Got to be patient, try and pick up a clue... this ain't nothing but an invitation to the blues". It's one of the greatest openings to a movie I've ever seen.
So for my film, I combined the scenes of Dr Bryce looking through the World Enterprises book, "Masterpieces in Paint and Poetry", and pausing at Brueghels "Landscape and the Fall of Icarus", and its accompanying excerpt from the Auden poem.
I needed some David Bowie music from the era, that was in some way similar to the Waits song - a sad piano piece, with lyrics that inform on what is to come. "Some Are", was perfect on both counts. "Some are bound to fail", Bowie sings, as we close up on the legs of the doomed Icarus, drowning in the sea, whilst apparently no one around him seems to care.
If you haven't seen it, do check out Nic Roeg's Bad Timing - it is a masterpiece.
Was Newton an alien?
In the first TV interview where he talks about the movie, Bowie becomes visibly irritated when host Russel Harty describes Bowie's Thomas Jerome Newton character as an alien, and he almost chastises Harty for his presumptuousness; "…it's assumed he's an alien from outer space, but it may not necessarily be true".
Yet on the surface at least, Newton is an alien, who has come to earth to transport water back to his own dying planet. And in interviews, Roeg always refers to Newton as an alien. Whereas Bowie doesn't seem so certain about Newton’s origins, or his mission. In the 1992 The Man Who Fell To Earth commentary, Bowie says, "Newton knows he's going to be betrayed, it's very obvious, but he seemingly doesn't do very much about it. So he must be here for some other purpose". As Bowie points out, there are Christ-like parallels. We could hypothesize that Newton’s falling to earth without any evidence of a space ship, is a kind of Immaculate Conception. And he arrives apparently a very pure being, who helps humanity advance and only seeks for himself a way to help his people. What are we to think is the "other purpose" Bowie mentions for him being here? Perhaps he came, like Christ to test human-kind? And we of course betrayed him. But in the end Newton wasn't born again. He becomes a ruined and lonely reflection of our contemporary human culture of decadence and self-destruction and immorality.
The original 2017 version of David Bowie is The Man Who Fell to Earth was online for a couple of years, and received a lot of views and positive reactions. Unfortunately it was abruptly taken down, when Vimeo de-platformed it without warning or explanation. Rather than simply put the original film up on an alternate platform, I decided to first try to make some improvements to it. Since the original version was made, my collection of Bowie footage has had many useful additions, and my editing skills have improved. So I’ve spent the last couple of months deep in editing myopia, refining the original work. There are still many ways I'd like to improve the work, and in fact here I am right up to the last minute, still making small changes. But today is the 45th anniversary of the 1976 premier, so I'm out of time. Perhaps I'll return to it in another 5 years, for the 50th anniversary.
Anyway here are the fruits of the current labours. As I wrote back in 2017, at the very least what we have here is an hour in the brilliant and highly enjoyable company and art of Nic Roeg, David Bowie and Candy Clark.
Thanks for watching, hope you dig it!
David Bowie is The Man Who Fell to Earth was produced, edited and directed by Nacho.
From the David Bowie album Diamond Dogs • 1974
• Sweet Thing (Intro)
From the David Bowie album The Gouster • 1975
From the David Bowie album Young Americans • 1975
• Young Americans
From the David Bowie album Station to Station • 1976
• Station to Station
• Golden Years [Track breakdown by Nacho]
• Stay [Intro]
• Wild is the Wind
From the David Bowie album Live at Nassau Coliseum • 1976
• TVC 15
From the David Bowie album Low • 1977
• Some Are
• Sound and Vision
• A New Career in a New Town
• Art Decade
• Weeping Wall
From the David Bowie album Stage • 1978
From the Aretha Franklin album Lady Soul • 1967
• (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
Primary Video Source
• The Man Who Fell to Earth • Directed by Nic Roeg • 1976
Primary Audio Source
• Nic Roeg & David Bowie • The Man Who Fell to Earth • Laser Disc commentary • 1992
• David Bowie on Soul Train • 1975 • Don Cornelius Productions • 1975
• David Bowie • The Russel Harty Show • 1975
• Landscape with the Fall of Icarus • Pieter Bruegel • circa 1560
• The Dinah! Show • CBS US TV • 1976
• Valerie Singleton interview • BBC TV • 1979
• Cracked Actor documentary • BBC TV • 1975
• Soul Train • Don Cornelius Productions • 1975
• Nic Roeg • BFI Guardian lecture • BBC TV • 1983
• TMWFTE radio ad • KZEW 98FM • 1977
• Russell Harty Show • LWT UK TV • 1975
• Mavis Nicholson interview • Thames UK TV • 1979
• Nic Roeg interview • LWT UK TV • 1978
• Hang on to Yourself documentary • BBC TV • 1996
• Dick Cavett Show • ABC US TV • 1974
• Bowie & Roeg commentary • Criterion Laser Disc • 1992
• Diamond Dogs TV ad • Mainman • 1974
• Diamond Dogs movie storyboard • David Bowie • 1974
• David Live TV ad • Mainman • 1974
• Right • Promo • Gouster Version • Nacho • 2016
• Nic Roeg Hollywood Outsider • US TV • 1989
• Five Years documentary • Frances Whateley • BBC TV • 2013
• The Last Five Years documentary • Frances Whateley • BBC TV • 2017
• Grammy Awards • US TV • 1975
• Young Americans TV ad • Mainman • 1975
• Candy Clark interview • Criterion DVD • 2005
• The Man Who Fell To Earth US trailer • Cinema 5 • 1976
• Leicester Square Theatre footage • Pathe • 1976
• Nic Roeg interview • Criterion DVD • 2005
• Sound & Vision documentary • Stax Entertainment • 2002
• Danielle Gilbert interview • French TV • 1977
• Yves Mourousi interview • TF1 • French TV • 1977
• Molly Meldrum Countdown interview • ABC Australia TV • 1978
• Stay • Live 1978 • Nacho • 1978
• David Bowie Live at Earls Court • Unofficial recording • 1978
• Conversations with fans • Capital Radio UK • 1979
• Janet Street-Porter interview • LWT UK TV • 1978
• Radio station caller • Capital Radio UK • 1977
• Maggie Norden Victoria Stn. interview • Capital Radio UK • 1976
• Radio interview • Capital Radio UK • 1977
• Spécial David Bowie • TF1 France • 1976
• Victoria Station footage • UK TV • 1976
• David Bowie • TVC15 Live 1976 [Redux] • Nacho • 2021
• The Man Who Fell to Earth White Sands shoot • Crew shot Super 8 • 1975
• Golden Years Track Breakdown • Nacho • 2021
• David Bowie & Paul Buckmaster Cherokee Studios 1975 • Brad Elterman
• David Bowie • Subterraneans • Nacho • 2017
Always more videos to follow, so please keep your electric eye on me babe!
I don't own the rights, and I'm not making any money out of this etc. Just a fan making videos for other fans.
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