David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth at the Jean Cocteau Cinema
As a tribute to David Bowie, who died of liver cancer in New York on Jan. 10 at age sixtynine, the Jean Cocteau Cinema presents The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), which opens on Friday, Jan. 15. Nicolas Roeg’s sci-fi classic, based on the 1963 novel by Walter Tevis, stars Bowie as Thomas Jerome Newton, an interstellar traveler who is stuck on Earth and trying to get back to his family. The film — which also stars Candy Clark, Buck Henry, and Rip Torn — is a surreal odyssey that tells a very human story. Newton’s allegorical fall is tragic, leaving viewers to question his very nature. Bowie was enamored of the character enough to include Newton on the covers for his 1976 album Station to Station and on 1977’s Low. He revisited Newton for the 2015 off-Broadway musical Lazarus, a sequel to The Man Who Fell to Earth that Bowie co-wrote with Enda Walsh. Lazarus is also the name of one of the tracks on Blackstar, Bowie’s last studio album, which was released on his birthday this year (Jan. 8).
The Man Who Fell to Earth is a fitting pick with which to honor the rock star’s long movie career. Bowie played memorable roles in Basquiat, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, The Prestige, Labyrinth, and other films, but Newton, an alien who succumbs to human vice, is perhaps his most iconic. New Mexico is among the film’s settings (Fenton Lake is where Newton crash-lands at the film’s start) and much of the movie was shot at locations in Jemez Springs, Madrid, Belen, Artesia, Alamogordo, and Roswell, among other places. The cinema is showing a brand new, high quality DCP digital print of the film. Approriately enough, it opens on the same day as The Amazing Nina Simone, Jeff Lieberman’s new documentary on the jazz great who was a friend and influence on Bowie. All ticket sales for the 6:30 p.m. showing of The Man Who Fell to Earth on Sunday, Jan. 17, go to support the American Cancer Society. A free Bowie singalong, karaoke, and live music follow at 9 p.m.