Random Thoughts on The Man Who Fell to Earth, Concluded

Finishing this up. My days turned to weeks. 

9. Nicolas Roeg allows viewers much room to intuit connections in The Man Who Fell to Earth. The first few minutes are among the most illogical. All you have to go on is the title. Something seems to explode in the sky and crash into a lake. A boring looking man in the distance watches another man with unusual hair struggle not up from but down toward the lake. How do we know this is the man who fell to Earth?

What Newton plans to do if his spaceship gets home is anyone’s guess. Why is the launch aborted? It seems Newton climbs into the limo and leaves the site on his own initiative. 

10. The dialogue of several of the old movies Newton watches on his banks of TVs blends is seamlessly with the action. The conversation from Love in the Afternoon could be Newton and Mary Lou’s, as well as that in The Third Man. When his driver comes to an abrupt stop outside the shack Newton lives in when he leaves Mary Lou, it sounds like he has blown out a tire. But that sound like a gunshot is on the television — a cowboy and Indian movie this time.

11. When Mary Lou takes a bath in their apartment, Tommy looks into his eyes in the mirror much as he will when he reveals his true self to her.

12. How does Tommy transform shape? One way may be the removal of his contacts. (Bowie is wearing a contact as he plays the role because the pupil size of both Thomas Jerome Newton’s eyes is the same.) A special twisting of nipples seems involved, too. Nipple play happens often with Bryce and his girls. Tommy seems nervous about it when he is in bed with Mary Lou. Why do scientists use a scalpel to get blood from Tommy’s nipples, a scene causing Bryce, to whom Bowie calls for help, to run away?

13. “Freak” is a jarring word in the movie. Mary Lou uses it to Tommy, as does Oliver Farnsworth’s boyfriend about Tommy.

14. Is Mary Lou’s cry, “Tommy! Tommy! Tommy can you hear me?” when Tommy locks himself in the bathroom a call-out to Bowie’s old friend the Who’s  Roger Daltrey’s Tommy?

15. Faith and trust: Newton told Mary Lou his name was Sussex because he did not yet know her. When she asks if he is married, he does not lie. Deceit is not natural to him, in spite of his assumption of the appearance and behavior of a member of a different species. He seems more comfortable doing this than claiming he is English. Newton tells Bryce and Mary Lou he trusts them. He misreads them. Or is this a self-deception?

Tommy really does not want to go to church with Mary Lou. Her talk of God turns his face to sky and memories of his family.

The night before his first physical visit with Bryce, he transmits his image to the dock where Bryce is fishing with the message, “Do not be suspicious.” When asked if they have met before, Newton’s standard answer is evasive, that he has thought about him a few times, as if those — being in physical and mental presences — are same.

After he has been imprisoned, Mary Lou asks Tommy to reveal to the authorities that he is who she knows him to be, but he will no longer prove himself to anyone.

16. The sphere ornament over Newton’s red bridge attracts Bryce’s attention, and foreshadows the huge sphere in the space capsule.

17. There is a statue of an angel or saint along with a mural of the moon in one of the government’s medical exam rooms. Church bells herald Tommy’s escape. At the lake, there were three crucifixes over one of Bryce’s inner thresholds.

18. Farnsworth calls his glasses his eyes. In her last appearance, Mary Lou is bothered by a displaced false eyelash. The x-ray of Newton’s eyes doesn’t blind him, but fuses contacts to his cat eyes, and if the removal of the contacts is an essential first step to leaving his human identity (see above), he is now stuck in disguise.

19. Drink doesn’t sicken Tommy, but it does, he says, allow him to see things. Mary Lou is scandalized by his answer to her question what kinds of things? “Women. And Men.”

20. In Chapter 16 of the Criterion DVD at 13:40, Newton bathed in blue light looks like a much older Bowie. In several scenes, Newton is uncannily still, foretelling the puppets or mannequins of arguably his creepiest video “Love is Lost” (Steve Reich’s remix).

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