The novel that this film is based upon is my favorite sci-fi novel of all time, I love David Bowie, and Nicholas Roeg is considered one of the best ‘artsy’ directors ever (Criterion sure loves the guy, so that must be saying something), so I was ecstatic about this film. Perhaps that’s why I feel a little bit let down… Oh, who am I kidding? This movie was just plain disappointing. I feel like Criterion owes me my money back for their overpriced release of this dud.
The plot is awesome… David Bowie plays TJ Newton, an alien from a dying planet who comes to Earth planning to become a mega-billionaire by putting patents on his super-advanced alien technology, and then building a ship to shuttle his people back and forth from his planet, so they can disguise themselves as humans, occupy positions of power, and then stop the dumbass humans from using up all the Earth’s resources and nuking themselves like Newton’s people did. However, along the way, TJ hits several snags, such as that painful, confusing thing called love, and discovering his fondness for alcohol and carnal pleasures… To say nothing of the government, who’s watching him very, very closely.
David Bowie was the perfect choice to play TJ Newton – he was Ziggy Stardust, man! However, it is Bowie’s presence in the film that brings up one of the things that annoyed me the most: if some random guy had been playing TJ and not a rock-&-roll sex symbol, I doubt Mr. Roeg would have felt the need to film rather graphic, really long sex scenes. Sure, we get to see Bowie’s dick, which is very nice, but it just slows the film to a crawl. And I suppose the scenes would be there no matter who played the role, since other characters have these hyper-extended pseudo-porn scenes as well (really, I do not need to see Rip Torn in the nude, no matter how experimental I’m feeling).
Another thing that irritated me is how confusing the movie is; if I hadn’t read the book first, I would be completely and utterly lost on what’s happening. And even having read the book, I was still terribly fucking confused. Things like irritating camera work (pointless zooming in and out during dialogue scenes) and huge jumps in the timeline from scene to scene with no indication that any time has passed just make the movie a chore to watch at times. Also, though Bowie kicks unholy ass, there’s some pretty cringe-worthy acting from other people here.
One thing that is important to note is that apparently, upon its initial release in the USA, it was heavily cut, and ended up over half an hour shorter. I must say, as disjointed as the movie already is, I would hate to have been one of the poor fools seeing the movie in an American cinema back in 1976…
I was extremely let down by the flaming wreck of a movie I was presented with. Criterion, you guys can do better… The only other movie I’ve seen from Roeg is The Witches, which I rather liked, so I’ll probably watch another one or two from him just to make sure I didn’t land on a creative slump with this one.