Thinking about Nicolas Roeg, I decided to watch two more of his films, one an old favorite, the other a movie I admit I'd never heard of.
The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976). This was the fourth movie Roeg directed, and as such, it was a must-watch on its release, since the first three, Performance (co-directed with Donald Cammell), Walkabout, and Don't Look Now, were all big favorites of mine. I still love all of those movies, and when it came out, I loved The Man Who Fell to Earth as well. But over time I realized that I wanted to love it, but that it ultimately fell short. We went to see a re-release with a friend, and it felt very long. It was long compared to what I'd seen before, since the original U.S. release had been cut by 20 minutes. I can no longer imagine what that butchered version was like, and the one we have now is the real thing, all 139 minutes of it. It has a distinct style, which is no surprise; it looks gorgeous, which is no surprise. But the plot never excites. The setup is intriguing ... an alien from outer space comes to Earth looking for water for his dying planet. But the rest is fairly ludicrous, which reflects poorly on what seemed appealing at the beginning. There are some good performances ... Rip Torn, as always, Candy Clark doing what she can, David Bowie accepting that he was perfectly cast and going with it. And the critique of capitalism, which peeks out once in awhile, is welcome if by-the-numbers. I was quite taken with the literally alienated hero when I was 23, and I can still recall that feeling today. But the movie is too long, with plenty of memorable moments but not enough to make the film as successful as the Roeg films that preceded it.
Glastonbury Fayre (Peter Neal and Nicolas Roeg, 1972). This was new to me. It's a documentary of the second Glastonbury event from 1971 that eventually became the Glastonbury Festival we all know and love. It's haphazard in a rather charming way ... it's no Woodstock, as a festival or as a movie. It wouldn't be a Roeg move without full nudity, although in this case it isn't famous actors doffing their duds but rather numerous fair-goers. 1971 seems like a long time after the Summer of Love, but in the movie, it's as if the hippie dream never died. Roeg made this between Walkabout and Don't Look Now, or somewhat simultaneously ... it's hard to be sure. Traffic and Melanie are probably the best-known performers for American audiences, although there are also performances by acts more popular in the U.K. ... Arthur Brown, Family, Fairport Convention, Terry Reid, and others. No one turns in a great performance ... there are no revelations here. But it works as a time capsule. One last note: this may be the last movie I watch on FilmStruck, which is shutting down tomorrow. They had a Nicolas Roeg festival at the end, which is where I found this movie.
And here is what Glastonbury music videos look like today: