The (oh jesus this is terrible) late David Bowie was, in his protean personae, command of iconography, and godlike charisma, one of the 20th century’s definitive movie stars—within and beyond the realm of cinema itself, which mostly struggled to bend him to its purposes. Generous and varied in his cultural enthusiasms, he was a frequent and welcome cameo; his songs, with their epic scope and unfathomable depths, were ultra-cinematic, ace soundtrack material. As an actor in other people’s movies—like as a presence in other people’s lives—Bowie appeared as a kind of signal of otherworldliness, called upon to sprinkle the proceedings with a little stardust.
The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
“Only David Bowie could be said to be typecast in the role of an aloof alien conquering the world through cultural innovations,” wrote Jake Cole, of this parish, about Bowie’s first star vehicle, and still his definitive film, with its flourishes of extraterrestrial longing, media overload, psychotropic languor rent with bursts of paranoia, sinister sex appeal, and eerie sound design. Bowie was at the height of his drug use at the time, and his body in this movie looks like a straw full of milk; he is very believable as a being unique, and alone, in the universe.