The Star Who Fell to Earth


David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth.

In August, Film Society of Lincoln Center is celebrating the screen work of Ziggy Stardust with a week long retrospective Watch That Man: David Bowie, Movie Star! The series offers a broad view of the musician's acting career, ranging from popular classics like The Man Who Fell to Earth to rarely seen films from the BBC archives. 

"David Bowie's move into film acting was inevitable given his charismatic presence and keen sense of how to constantly reinvent himself in iconographic terms," said Film Comment Magazine Editor-in-Chief Gavin Smith. "His film roles set up an intriguing and unique dialogue with his shape-shifting image as a musical performer. Some roles intersect with phases of his musical career as in The Man Who Fell to Earth and Just a Gigolo. Others take off in bold new directions that had captured the pop culture zeitgeist as in The Hunger and Absolute Beginners. And of course he was also one of the first music artists to harness the potential of the music video in the pre-MTV era."

In The Man Who Fell to Earth, Nicholas Roeg harnesses the charisma of Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie for the musician's screen debut. The enduringly iconic work tells the story of an extraterrestrial who builds a billion-dollar corporate empire and creates a private space program to save his dying home world, but is undone by earthly emotional attachments and the machinations of a shadowy syndicate. The series also includes a concert film shot three years earlier, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The documentary capture 16 numbers from the last performance of the 1973 Ziggy Stardust U.K. tour, which proved to also be the end of the Ziggy Stardust persona. It screens with the documentary Cracked Actor, a behind the scenes look at the 1974 Diamond Dogs tour. 


Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. Image courtesy of RECORDED PIC-CINEVENTURE-ASAHI/OSHIMA / THE KOBAL COLLECTION

The series will also look at Bowie's more extreme departures from his musical career. In the Nagisa Oshima-helmed Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Bowie plays a British soldier in a Japanese POW camp during WWII. Oshima reportedly cast him in the role after seeing Bowie on Broadway as John Merrick in The Elephant Man. We will also be hosting a free screening of the U.S. premiere of an Alan Clarke-directed BBC-TV adaptaion of Bertolt Brecht's Baal. Bowie stars as the debauched artist-poet Baal, who defies bourgeois society and roams the countryside womanizing, brawling and, finally, committing murder.

Tickets to Watch That Man: David Bowie, Movie Star are now on sale. Check out the full lineup below for other great screenings, from music videos to sexy vampire flicks! 

ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS (1986) 108min
Director: Julian Temple
Country: U.K.
A cameo-packed kaleidoscopic musical pastiche in which a teenage photographer pursues his elusive dream girl through the bohemian scene of late 1950s London, with Bowie as the smooth-talking advertising exec who offers to get him into the big time.
Sunday, August 4 at 3:15PM

BAAL (1982) 113min **Free to the public
Director: Alan Clarke
Country: U.K.
The U.S. Premiere of BBC-TV’s adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s first play, directed by the legendary Alan Clarke and featuring five musical performances. Bowie is debauched artist-poet Baal, who defies bourgeois society and roams the countryside womanizing, brawling and, finally, committing murder. With the great Zoë Wanamaker as Baal’s eventually devastated mistress Sophie.
Saturday, August 3 at 9:00PM
Thursday, August 8 at 6:30PM

BASQUIAT (1996) 106min
Director: Julian Schnabel
Country: U.S.
Bowie costars in this biopic about painter Jean-Michel Basquiat (Jeffrey Wright), playing the artist’s friend and collaborator Andy Warhol, in a performance widely hailed as the definitive onscreen incarnation of Warhol. Bowie even wore Andy’s actual wig, glasses, and jacket for the role.
Sunday, August 4 at 1:00PM
Wednesday, August 7 at 3:45

CHRISTIANE F (1981) 131min
Director: Ulrich Edel
Country: West Germany
A rare screening of the harrowing true story of a 13-year-old Berlin girl’s heroinaddiction hell, featuring a soundtrack of songs from Bowie’s 1977-79 Berlin phase—plus, when Christiane (Natja Brunckhorst) attends a Bowie concert, a stunning live performance of “Station to Station.”
Tuesday, August 6 at 7:30PM + Viva Radio afterparty
Wednesday, August 7 at 8:45PM

CRACKED ACTOR (1975) 53min
Director: Alan Yentob
Country: U.K.
A candid, haunting and ultra-rare documentary portrait shot during the 1974 Diamond Dogs tour featuring much behind the scenes footage that reveal Bowie’s fragile mental state as well as live performances of nine songs. In 1987 Bowie commented “I was so blocked ... so stoned ... I'm amazed I came out of that period. When I see that now I cannot believe I survived it. I was so close to really throwing myself away physically, completely.”
Sunday, August 4 at 8:30PM (Screens with Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - The Motion Picture)
Thursday, August 8 at 4:00PM (Screens with David Bowie: The Music Videos)

THE HUNGER (1983) 99min
Director: Tony Scott
Country: U.S.
Perfectly cast as vampire lovers who’ve been together since the 18th century, Catherine Denueve and David Bowie stalk New York’s downtown club scene in search of fresh blood (blink and you’ll miss Willem Dafoe). An ultra-stylish time capsule of early Eighties filmmaking.
Friday, August 2 at 12:00AM Midnight
Monday, August 5 at 1:00PM 

JUST A GIGOLO (1978) 105min
Director: David Hemmings
Country: West Germany
A rare screening of the film that would briefly unite Bowie with one of cinema’s greatest icons—Marlene Dietrich. An ironic picaraesque tale set amidst the decadent demimonde and political ferment of Weimar Germany, the film details the misfortunes of a Prussian officer (Bowie) reduced to working as a paid escort to make ends meet. With Kim Novak.
Tuesday, August 6 at 5:15PM

LABRYRINTH (1986) 101min
Director: Jim Henson
Country: U.K.
Add villainous Jareth, the treacherous Goblin King, to the array of Bowie personae in this live-action and puppet fairytale fantasy, tempting and tormenting Jennifer Connolly, who must negotiate an otherworldly labyrinth to rescue her baby brother.
Saturday, August 3 at 1:00PM

THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976) 138min
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Country: U.K.
Bowie’s indelible screen debut as an extraterrestrial who builds a billion-dollar corporate empire and creates a private space program to save his dying home world but is undone by earthly emotional attachments and the machinations of a shadowy syndicate.
Sunday, August 4 at 5:45PM
Monday, August 5 at 3:00PM

MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. LAWRENCE (1982) 124min
Director: Nagisa Oshima
Country: U.K.
The conflicting cultural imperatives and repressions of East and West collide with tragic consequences in a Japanese POW camp as an unspoken fatal attraction develops between British officer Bowie and camp commander Ryuichi Sakamoto while brutal sergeant Takeshi Kitano looks on disapprovingly.
Saturday, August 3 at 3:15PM
Wednesday, August 7 at 1:00PM

David Bowie: The Music Videos 1979-2013 53min
Boys Keep Swinging (David Mallet, 1979, 3:17); Fashion (David Mallet, 1980, 3:30) Ashes to Ashes (David Mallet & David Bowie, 1980, 3:38); Let's Dance (David Mallet, 1983, 4:00); China Girl (David Mallet, 1983, 4:02); Jazzin for Blue Jean (long version) (Julian Temple, 1984, 20m); Jump They Say (Mark Romanek, 1993, 4:02); The Hearts Filthy Lesson (Samuel Bayer, 1995, 5:10; The Stars Are Out Tonight (Floria Sigismondi, 2013, 5:54).
Thursday, August 8 at 4:00PM

THE PRESTIGE (2006) 130min
Director: Christopher Nolan
Country: U.S.
Director Nolan insisted that only Bowie could play the pivotal part of legendary reallife inventor Nicola Tesla in this fantasy thriller about two rival 19th-century magicians (played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale) who compete over an astounding magic trick made possible by the scientist’s invention.
Saturday, August 3 at 6:15PM

ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS – THE MOTION PICTURE (1973) 90min
Director: D.A. Pennebaker
Country: U.S./U.K.
Capturing 16 numbers from the 1973 Ziggy Stardust U.K. tour, rock doc vet Pennebaker shoots straight with minimal behind-the-scenes action, and he only has eyes for Bowie (and guitarist Mick Ronson). Not even the band knew that this was to be not only the tour’s final date, but also the official retirement of Ziggy Stardust.
Sunday, August 4 at 8:30PM

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