Man Who Fell to Earth, The (1976)

The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), directed by Nicolas Roeg.

I hadn't seen this since it was in the theater, when my enjoyment was spoiled by a loudly uncomprehending audience. I don't know why they were there or why they didn't leave.

Science fiction fans can at least understand the plot: a mysterious visitor brings a notebook of new inventions, but has curious gaps in his knowledge. He becomes the secretive head of an industrial empire and builds a spacecraft for his return home, but the powers-that-be (government? mafia? competitors?) won't allow it and he is trapped on earth as a prisoner.

But SF viewers will be less happy with the way the plot wanders, and with the generally unfocussed, tragic story of Mr Newton, who loses his direction and becomes trapped by alcohol and entangled in earthly sordidness.

If you listen to the commentary track on the Blu-ray, the filmmakers take a non-literal view of the project. To them it doesn't matter whether he is a space alien or merely delusional. It's all an arty game with the images and possibilities

I think it could be trimmed without harm.

Misc notes:

Criterion Blu-ray with a commentary track from the laserdisc days: Bowie, Buck Henry and the director. Artists talking: as is often the case, not necessarily the best use of their time. Is this a longer cut than I saw in the theater? I'm not remembering all the sex games, or the bit with the pistol loaded with blanks toward the end.

The Blu-ray is out of print and expensive on the used market. Netflix still has it, but that can't last much longer.