Memories of a Bowie Conference: 14. Something Happened on the Day he Died



Dene October The (becoming-wo)Man Who Fell to Earth

SPEAKER Dene October is a senior lecturer at University of Arts London and former style journalist and London Fashion Week journalism award winner, editor of Doctor Who and History and

SYNOPSIS The paper speculates on ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ character Thomas Jerome Newton in regard to his figuration, and his Bowie-ness, as way of conceptualising character and identity: is Newton really fallen? Only if refuses to step outside of the pre-quantum theoretical logic of the film. Beginning by noting the being / becoming dilemma of the character, the paper considers Deleuze’s notion of ‘becoming’ to critique the oppressive feminine figuration of the film’s alien. However a Deleuzian account of identity is unable to free the paralysis of the subject and the resulting androcentric actualising of Newton’s identity. The gravitational figure cannot help but fall, while a post-Newtonian figure continues to fall, yet having stepped aside, also paradoxically rise. Thus in challenging the film’s narrative, timeliness and grammar, a quantum-becoming Newton is able to take his own place as the man who fell.

KEY POINTS Newton is a Prometheus figure bound to human corporeal reconstruction. The film links his alien-ness to nature and deep femininity. It sets this against despotic and aggressive androcentricism. Newton is ultra-sensitive, a masochistic relay for identification, unable to maintain the boundaries that constrain his desires and energies. Newton, like Bowie, is affective. borgesThe film end may actually be a fictional interval where Newton waits in a hiatus of becoming, while the film language is brought up to date through an appropriation of quantum physics enabling a more amenable account of character-identity.

KEY QUOTE ‘if we argue that the end of the film lies somewhere else, somewhere in the connection[s] it has made … the character’s agency is no longer predetermined by an author or scrutinised by an audience […]There are several … actualisations of Newton occurring over several spaces … glimpses into his interiority [which] offer up the tantalising quantum possibility of Newton being in two places at once, both falling and rising’

If film arrests time, how many times does an angel fall?
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NEXT UP I Could Make it all Worthwhile. Julie Lobalzo Wright.

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