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David Bowie: An Anthropologist’s View

CAS prof discusses cult film The Man Who Fell to Earth tonight

When the people behind the 1976 cult film The Man Who Fell to Earth cast David Bowie as the extraterrestrial protagonist, they must have known what they were getting. It’s hard enough to picture the rock legend fitting in among any normal human crowds, but his performance as an alien who tries to assimilate to human society still has audiences discussing sameness and difference more than 30 years later.
It’s an issue that resonates with Robert Weller, a College of Arts and Sciences professor and chairman of the anthropology department, who will speak at the Coolidge Corner Theatre tonight, November 26, prior to a screening of the film. Weller will talk about the outsider’s experience in modern Western culture as part of the theater’s ongoing Science on Screen series, which brings noted scientists to introduce and discuss films with a basis in science.

Elizabeth Taylor-Mead, the theater’s associate director, says that Weller is the perfect choice to discuss The Man Who Fell to Earth because the film takes on anthropological issues. “At its simplest level, the movie is about the reactions of a foreigner to an unknown culture,” she says. “We thought it would be interesting to have an anthropologist speak about what it means to be an alien.”

Tonight’s show runs from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, 290 Harvard St., Brookline. Tickets are $7.75 for students, seniors, and Museum of Science members, $9.75 for the general public, and free to Coolidge Corner Theatre members. For more information, visit the theater’s Web site.

Click the audio player below to hear Weller discuss The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Edward A. Brown can be reached at ebrown@bu.edu.