But Bowie is far from the grave as the human population ages as he remains the same… All Bowie wants is to be left alone and live in peace. His heterosexual relationship brings him company but it has also corrupted him with alcohol which has spoiled his simple pleasures.
Is this what leads to the lone drinker? A want to recreate the simple pleasures in one’s own company one has known previously? There is a sense of alienation to the lone alcoholic… and a sense of loss too in Bowie’s case.
Finally, Torn is requested to meet Bowie. He has been staying at the guest house. Bowie shows him the prototype for the new spaceship, which is some sort of orb which can seat a single person… something Torn said would make him scream inside after about 20 minutes. Torn mentions he has watched television…
“The strange thing about television is that it doesn’t tell you anything… it shows you everything about life on Earth… just waves in space,” says Bowie. The same could be said about alcohol as it doesn’t tell you anything also and is just waves in the bloodstream!
And all this time, Bowie hasn’t been unmasked as an alien. But Torn suspects as do others in power. His company, while a loner and a pioneer, like Bowie himself, comes under scrutiny, especially his world famous space project.
“Mr Newton, are you crazy?,” says Torn when Bowie tells him not to worry about the recovery of the orb – once built on a gigantic scale – from Mars, or wherever. It seems it is to be a one-way journey.
The theme of no privacy for the alien is examined with Torn hiding an x-ray camera in the guest house when Bowie visits, giving him alcohol to enable the scan. It is also shown when government and corporate agents start to interfere with the project and infiltrate Bowie’s company.
Torn knows Bowie is an alien now from the x-ray photos. But a good one.
Meanwhile Bowie sees himself occasionally on the television and his alien wife watches it with him using some Martian holograph screen. That he drinks and she is dry without almost any water is the reason for his inner disturbance. They see the same thing on the screen but they are on two different worlds. The effect of alcohol upon others also seems to be another world to a person who is sober.
Bowie tries to give up the alcohol and tells Clark: “I can’t explain it to you completely… if I stay here I shall die.” He plans to leave her. She calls him an “alien” albeit in the context of a Brit whose passport visa has expired.
“I don’t care what you are, or who you are,” says Clark, intimating their life of alcohol and sex in a Japanese themed household is just a façade, like a Kabuki performance rather than a peaceful Shinto religious den.
It is now that Bowie takes off his human disguise to show who he really is. As a result the drunken woman screams and wets herself. His Martian form is slightly reptilian with no sex organs as he/it lies naked on the bed. Much like a female form without hair or breasts.
It turns Clark on and she strips to get intimate with this alien… but she can’t as sex on Bowie’s planet is something completely different to what it is on Earth… a kind of ejaculation from the outside into space I have heard it described… the relationship is over… and the alien, more alone than ever… sees his wife and two children walk off in to the desert in a vision.
Bowie moves into the isolation of a desert shack with a television where Torn visits and they discuss the drought on Bowie’s planet and how Bowie saw Earth with its water on television. We never see any other aliens apart from Bowie’s family. It is as if they are the only survivors on their planet.
We cut to Farnsworth who is urged by his long-time companion to leave the company but he won’t.
“I feel sorry for him… because he can’t help it,” says Farnsworth about Bowie’s outsider status and alcoholism.
Torn and Bowie watch the corona of the sun together during an eclipse, two very different men who share Bowie’s secret identity.
The spaceship about to launch, paranoia reaches a fever pitch over Bowie’s real identity in the media as Farnsworth is murdered by two men in golden crash helmets, throwing him from his high-rise apartment.
There will be no launch due to interference within the company and the government. So Bowie drinks steadily as he is taken into custody for experiments to determine his real identity… I could be highly critical of this movie but I prefer to go with it…
In terms of sexual identity, Bowie played with the idea that he could possibly be bisexual, and it added to his mystique during the period before the film was made. Whether it was just a publicity stunt dreamt up by him and his manager… Who knows? Certainly Mick Jagger, who was in Roeg’s film Performance, was meant to appear as a mixture of both male and female in that film. While Keith Richards I understand would occasionally rib Jagger about his apparent brief flirtation with bisexuality in the late 1960s. It is rumoured Jagger and Bowie slept together.
Sexual identity on Bowie’s planet in the movie doesn’t really matter when you have no sex organs. We really don’t know who gave birth to his alien children.
Kept in a rambling tumbledown apartment, Bowie is served drinks while he watches The Third Man (1949), which told of corruption uncovered following the investigation of a friend’s death. Obviously no-one cared about Farnsworth.
Taken to a clinic for “tests” Bowie says “I came alone… Nobody saw me.” As if he had committed some crime. Locked up, he can’t escape.
Clark turns up, having aged somewhat and Bowie plays with a revolver.
“What happens to you when you drink?,” Clark asks Bowie.
“I see things… bodies,” says Bowie, bodies of men and women he confirms to the aging Clark, who laughs at the bi-curious possibilities and returns with: “Bad boy.”
Does he see men and women from his planet? Which appear more or less the same. Or human bodies and the influence of human sex and their naked bodies, paired with the addiction to alcohol and the emptiness of this populated world against the intimacy of his dying planet and his family…? Whatever! Clark and Bowie have sex in scenes of full frontal nudity and Bowie’s foreskin and suddenly Bowie is back to life as with an old friend and lover. It’s been decades but Bowie hasn’t aged… the bubble bursts, however, when Clark says he should stay on Earth and what does his planet have to offer anyway? Probably the fact he can appear as he really is and have sex as he really wants to! His parting gift to her, the last of his rings, doesn’t fit… and she leaves, telling him: “You’re gonna die like an animal, a stupid creature.”
Fed pure gin by his prodding and probing doctors, they x-ray his eyes which cause his contact lenses to affix forever. He will never be the same if he returns to his planet! Scarred forever!! Furthermore, any hope of returning home to his planet are scuttled when the spaceship he built is destroyed by self-destruct. In the trashy apartment cobwebs cover the endless bottles of Beefeater Gin… but lo and behold, the door is left unlocked one day and Bowie escapes barefoot.
Time passes…. It’s Christmas – that time of year on Earth – and Torn and Clark are a couple out buying gin. “Wanna drink?,” asks Clark. “Why not?,” says Torn.
In their apartment, they wonder how they got there… on planet Earth, together, with drinks in their hands. Celebrating what? They have Bowie in common.
Torn goes to a record shop where he listens to a record entitled The Visitor. It’s selling cheap. It is Bowie’s latest incarnation and the pair meet at a bar. Bowie is an artist wearing a hat like he did when he first appeared in the movie, still a hopeless alcoholic. Is he one of the failed Men in Black? Not part of an organisation, not even his own. He is an artist though.
“We probably would’ve treated you the same if you came over to our place,” says Bowie with a touch of bitterness about Earth’s hospitality and, totally drunk, nods off in the bar.
The film is a long slog at over two hours, about the time it takes for the average alcoholic to get drunk twice. Well, a couple of happy hours! But that’s irrelevant. It all comes down to an orgasm if you’re not an alcoholic. Otherwise how else will you feel any better as the day progresses? I think I nicked that from Dean Martin. Not the orgasm part. Like that mass coronal ejection from the sun during an eclipse almost like an alien orgasm in space! The sun is the giver of life and death on a planet. The star that is a god to some, it too has gravity like the planets but much more… Is Bowie some sort of martyr for the alcoholic? And he delivers the patents like some sort of capitalist prophet from the outset. He is too self-absorbed and self-interested to be a saviour on this Earth. He wanted money. But as an alcoholic to alcoholics, he drinks endlessly and doesn’t age or get health problems. In that way he is saintly and to be admired. Yet he is a failed saviour of his own planet, literally.
The characters in The Man Who Fell to Earth seem psychically linked from the outset and their paths cross and meet and pair off over the years… it is all drowned by alcohol and forgotten or attempted to be forgotten. Or celebrated! How long will Bowie live? He doesn’t seem to care! He functions in the world with a bank account as opposed to the homeless drunk at the beginning of the movie. Money is the only difference between them both.
When Bowie does cry out “go back where you belong” he is possibly talking about himself as he is seen by the humans and their xenophobia of those who don’t belong. The voices are possibly his own inner voices, or the voices of the intolerant being carried like television waves throughout the atmosphere, picked up by Bowie’s antennae… Maybe it was just a television show!
Bowie’s dulling of the psychic senses within himself with alcohol, these voices distilled through the television are the key to his alcoholism and will forever be a trigger along with Clark’s character as sexual partner. He cannot live without all of them. Note that the gun in the movie contains blanks as we wonder how Bowie’s human appendage works in the first place. It certainly will be firing blanks and it’s all very mysterious and really not worth pondering except as voyeurism.
Then there is the point of director Nicholas Roeg’s voyeurism. Bowie’s alien is in love with photography, as is Roeg, and Roeg blurs the lines between whose sex life is being portrayed on screen – Bowie’s, Torn’s or just plain Roeg’s? Bowie’s character is possibly being spied on Earth, by other aliens, using television and so Roeg’s voyeurism knows no bounds as a result – I guess the film is out now and showing in space somewhere!
Bowie the performer and Bowie the alien merge: the prophet of digital television and failed saviour of his own planet, the myth of the performer known as The Visitor who happened to be an alcoholic. Bowie died of liver cancer but whether it was linked to alcohol is unknown. Look for a Bowie poster in the record shop scene.
The movie has no real plot and itself probably outshines Bowie’s performance. And it is true for some that if they do not understand a person, they choose to alienate and destroy them. This type of bullying starts at a young age and so does alienation of the self. Even if they know the person they alienate is perhaps better in some ways than them. Even if that person has done nothing to provoke the attack except feel occasionally inferior… or depressed… kick them while they’re down.
There’s something of the one punch attack about it, so don’t engage with those types of people… alienate them back! Not that I recommend it but it’s the irony and the curse of the human condition!! No wonder Bowie chose alcohol over fighting back, he was above the human condition in that sense… and it made him an alien doubly! He just wanted peace. An easy target for those other successful and sober Men in Black. Incidentally, I didn’t mention black actor Bernie Casey’s (1939-2017 stroke) role as a corporate infiltrator instrumental in dashing Bowie’s space plans! Or his sex life!!
The next time you fall to Earth and want an alcoholic drink all on your own instead of water, remember, they’re only Earthlings! Are you ready to chase that momentary high while the Men in Black keep an eye on you?! Cripes, it’s happy hour!!