Roger Ebert – Labyrinth – 1986:
Roger Ebert – The Man Who Fell to Earth – 2011:
The world lost one of its true creators this weekend. David Bowie was a perpetual outsider, ahead of the curve. He made a career and a life out of living outside the norm as an alien, a misfit, a sexual adventurer, a faraway astronaut. His first film, The Man Who Fell to Earth has become a cult classic. I regret to say that I have not seen it, but hope to rectify that shortly. In the film, he plays an alien from a drought-stricken planet who journeys to Earth in search of water. Ebert remarks, “Bowie, slender, elegant, remote, evokes this alien so successfully that one could say, without irony, this was a role he was born to play.” Ebert remarked about meeting David Bowie and about his quality as an actor.
[He] has an enviable urbane charm. I met him once, and rarely have been so impressed by someone’s poise. If he hadn’t been a rock star he could have had success as an actor, playing roles such as those given to James Fox or William Hurt. Bowie demonstrated that in such films as “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” “Absolute Beginners,” “The Hunger” and “Labyrinth.” … He is … Other. Apart. Defined within himself.
Besides his progressive, challenging, and remarkable body of work, Bowie also gifted us with his son with Mary Angela Barnett, Duncan Jones, who I believe is one of the most promising up and coming directors working today. He directed two sci-fi thrillers, Moon (2009) and Source Code (2011). Bowie has had such an impact on our popular culture and he held such respect from such a wide array of people, receiving memorial tweets from people like Madonna, Astronaut Tim Peake, Kanye West, and even the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. The world will be a slightly less interesting place with him gone.
As I have read and heard so many people speaking fondly of him, I felt compelled to share my first memory of David Bowie. It was in the 1986 film Labyrinth, I was too young to remember seeing it when it first was released, but I recall renting the film from our local video store and watching raptly as a Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) struggled on a magical adventure to rescue her brother from Bowie’s deceptions as the goblin king Jareth.
Bowie joined forces with Muppet creator Jim Henson, special-effects guru George Lucas, and screenwriter Terry Jones of Monty Python fame to produce this fantasy which reminds me of a strange blend of The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.
It was a great work of Jim Henson and very ambitious. To my young mind it was a swirling and thrilling adventure. Unfortunately, I think I may have lost some of the youthful exuberance that I once possessed, because upon a re-watching a year or two ago, I was amazed at how meandering and drawn out the film is without good reason. It is longer than it should be and is lacking enough of a coherent plot to keep me attached. However, I may still dust it off again, if just to hear the soundtrack as Jareth himself composed and performed a number of songs for the film. Farewell Major Tom, God’s love be with you.