By Eric Kohn | Eric Kohn July 1, 2011 at 8:39AM
Random question: Has anyone ever pointed out the relationship between these two films?
I ask now because a confluence of events have inadvertently led me to view them back to back. Having recently watched "The Ward," John Carpenter's unfortunate misfire that plays like a made-for-TV psychodrama made by someone inspired by better Carpenter, I turned to the filmmaker in better times. "Starman," while not Carpenter's best movie by a long shot, showed his potential (woefully unrealized in subsequent years) to make a movie under studio constraints and still deliver a powerfully compelling narrative, replete with his requisite social commentary. At the same time, Carpenter managed a conventionally affecting payoff with Capraesque ease, hinting at a multi-genre potential that he never really explored again. (It's not too late, John!) And then yesterday I traveled to Film Forum to check out the director's cut of Nicolas Roeg's marvelously trippy David Bowie vehicle "The Man Who Fell to Earth," currently celebrating its 35th anniversary. What we have here are two sides of the same imaginative coin: An extraterrestrial visitor far wiser than anyone on Earth pays us a visit and falls in love. (Unlike E.T., they both assume human forms, which makes them more relatable.) In each journeyman's experience, he is at once stunned by our civilization's idiosyncratic incivility and yet somehow still finds himself at home. In imagining a sentient being wise beyond his years, both movies posit that emotions are universal and--in their mutual quests to get back where they belong--that there's no place like home, no matter where that might be. In short, a sobering double bill.