Sound & Vision: Bruegel and Bowie

Early in Nicolas Roeg’s film of Walter Tevis’s novel The Man Who Fell to Earth, Dr.  Bryce (Rip Torn), who will oversee the development of an intergalatic vehicle for Thomas Jerome Newton (Bowie), browses through a book of the paintings of Bruegel the Elder, paying particular attention to Landscape with the Fall of Icarus.

If you didn’t know the title of the painting, you might miss Icarus. In the foreground a farmer plows, eyes to the ground, having missed the descent and plunge of Icarus, the boy who flew too close to the sun. What we see are just his legs (bottom right).

Watching videos of the Reality Tour’s choreography of “Heathen (The Rays),” I was reminded of another painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Parable of the Blind Leading the Blind

when Bowie leaves the stage, one hand on Gail Ann Dorsey’s  shoulder (picture from

This happens at 4:40 in the following video.

Check out too around 3:00. You see what looks like flames. Later, around 5:18, you see them framed in Gothic church windows.

There’s another Bruegel painting showing this choreography, Children’s Games (click for Flash). In the upper right children are playing Blindman’s Bluff, approaching a self- parody by the artist of his Parable of the Blind. And check out the windows on the porch of the building center rear — same as what you see in the “Heathen (The Rays)” video.

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