I realise this is years later. But one of the nice things about the Internet is that conversations can take that long.
> However the Rip Torn sex scenes bothered the hell out of me, it was repeating a point that was already stated not more than 5-10 minutes before, while cutting away from the development of Bowie's character.
To me, these seemed to be emphasising something that Dr. Bryce says later on in some narration, about how much his life changed by working with WE. His primary vice is sapped away and he becomes focussed on this thing, this project. You pointed this out yourself, so basically I'm agreeing with you on this point. I think the repeated nature of the scenes, and in particular the overlapping of different women saying similar things or following a line of conversation in concert is just a device to show how promiscuous he was. It would be like showing a sequence of scenes about a drunk who gets himself together. You wouldn't just show one binge at the bar, that wouldn't get the point across. You'd show how this is a common problem with the guy and that he is addicted to burying his life in this vice.
I do not think you would disagree with that, so I feel that your only problem with this is that the man's vice involved something that impinges upon your comfort level.
And to answer why nudity (male and female) was necessary to the impact of the scenes, well the sex scenes were all interleaved with various other events going on. This was most effectively done with the first, where the sex was most vividly portrayed as being overly violent, interleaved with theatrical performance depicting a sword fight. It was, to me, a sort of comedic theatrical performance of human sex as seen from an outsider's point of view. This is a common mammalian trait (a point that was accentuated subtly in some of the nature shows Newton watched, where the male lion "love bites" the female lion on the neck).
It would be difficult to capture a caricature of human mating styles, as viewed by someone from another species, without nudity. I thought it was particularly interesting to show things that way, and then show the evolution of Newton's sex life as he increasingly "went native". In the end he was every bit as exaggeratedly violent as the now monk-like Bryce had been.
> I was also perplexed as to why the nude swimming pool scene was included. I thought it was a very beautiful shot, but what purpose did it serve?
A demonstration of power. As he was enjoying a luxurious swim, the murders that he had ordered had been undertaken. I suppose, coming from someone who is decidedly *not* a prude (so take what I say as being a point of perspective rather than debate) I barely even noticed that anyone was nude in this shot at all. What I did notice was the clear demonstration of physical power, shown by a man who could dive into a pool, kick once to clear it, and then lift a grown women clear out of the pool onto the side, above his chest, so that she lands on her feet. It was such an impressive looking show of strength, and I'm positive that was meant to be directly compared with the political power being used to murder one of the most wealthy men in the world (and his lover). I suppose this could have been done with bathing suits on, but why? I see that question asked often by people who are annoyed or bothered by the depiction of the human form: why does this even need to be here---but I feel the same way, why *do* they need clothes or swimwear? What would be the reason for shooting this shot with swimwear? I can't think of one, outside of what I would consider to be antiquated socially induced fear of our own flesh. It seems perfectly natural to me to go swimming in the nude. Like I say, I don't wish this to be a point of debate, and I certainly do not mean to offend. I merely wish to offer a counter-perspective from someone who does not see things the way you do. Like I say, to me I barely even noticed the nudity in this shot. That wasn't the focus of it.
I think you might have a point with the analogy of falling to earth/falling into the pool. He did land in the lake after all. Combining this with my conception of the scene perhaps you could say that power, in a sense, comes from an efficient use of one's environment. Newton did not know how to fit into the environment, either biologically or socially and the power he did obtain from his inventions was a fickle sort, whereas the power this retired military man had attained was precisely the sort of lasting, strong influence that can only come from being born in, raised, and intelligent and lucky enough to manipulate the currents of life around you into pushing you to the surface of the pool of life.
At any rate, I would echo what **noguano** said below. The '70s era in film had a naturalist side to it that I miss in modern cinema. Back then a person could be shown sitting nude in their home reading a book, and that was just an honest depiction of what people do. There wasn't a point necessarily being made by this; no it isn't *necessary* to show them nude, but nor is it necessary *not* to. It's a part of human life, and snipping that out of film is just bias. Well that's my opinion.
Nice post. I agree. I love these conversations over years. Shame on Bezos for shutting IMDB down.
I liked the nudity. Not a prude. It was also something that was a sign of the times it was made.
To address other things. I think there is a theme of the Fallen Angels in this movie. It's a typical Hollywood theme and I'm not an expert on it, but I've seen enough imagery and analysis to know it's used frequently. We even saw Lady Gaga do this a the Superbowl show..it was blatantly obvious.
We know Thomas would represent the good angel and he doesn't age and is kinda supernatural. I think the sex scenes with Bryce have a purpose. I didn't get it on the first viewing. Thomas and Bryce have some kind of Telepathy going on. They even thought they met before. Bryce's narrative seems to hint that he may also be a fallen angel or not of this earth/normal human. The legend said that the fallen angels created man and had sex with women (Nephilim) and we are the offspring. Bryce seems to demonstrate this. Women were so beautiful he couldn't resist and wanted to become human and spend his life in hedonistic pursuits. Earth was his playground. Thomas was pursuing wealth, presumably to build a space ship/time machine to get back to his place/time to be with his wife/family. He even says they have visited many times. He has flashbacks to different time periods, which is either inter-dimensional vision, parallel time lines crossing waves or he had past lives or he is immortal and is flashing back to past visions of places he'd been before (and maybe not immortal but lives 500-1000 years as legend had it).
I wonder if even the Black guy was a dark fallen angel with a different agenda. He had the agents reporting to him who were aware of Thomas' "unearthly" arrival and tracking him. He too was mating with beautiful women and had superior strength as you noted.
It's no accident Bowie played this role (Ziggy Stardust, Lazarus, Tesla, Black Star, Kaballah etc etc)
This site must limit characters per post so I can't fit everything in.
Bryce made a peculiar statement in the early part of the film to the effect that the students only age because they are brainwashed, implying he did not age as fast and had esoteric knowledge. Both he and Thomas are non violent and don't wish to use technology for weaponry, though Bryce is not as moral as Thomas (drinks, promiscuous, used hidden heat photography, took Mary Lou from Thomas, compromised Thomas).
Back to the visions of past....I wonder if these convey Ley lines or some kind of inter-dimensional vortex's and thus near where Thomas landed in the lake and later built a house to be near that specific and remote location.
I also wonder about the time travel aspect. When Thomas is in the desert alone watching TV he says he came from "over there somewhere" pointing at ground level and the scenery looks very similar to the train scenes with his family. Peculiar that he doesn't point to the sky. This movie brings up so many interesting questions the more you watch it.