Thursday, January 8, 2009

A movie review: The Fall (2008)

The Fall (2008)

Director: Tarsem Singh
Tagline: A Little Blessing In Disguise.
30 May 2008 (USA)
Runtime: 117 min

Catinca Untaru - Alexandria
Lee Pace - Roy Walker / Blue Bandit

It is very rare when one can proclaim something – anything! – To be “The Best.” What’s the best car ever made? Who was the best President? Do you think it will be anytime soon that the best baseball player of all time will be determined?

And so it is that much sweeter that I am able to announce here that The Best visually appealing and graphically mesmerizing film of all time has been declared, by me, to be The Fall, directed by Tarsem Singh (The Cell).

With a blitz-like array of colors and patterns, we are taken on a fantastical journey mixed with truths and lies and fairy-tale rhymes in a world both real and un-real, natural and un-natural.

The setting for this concoction of whimsy brilliance begins in a sad, dark hospital in Los Angeles around the second decade of the 1900s. A stunt man, Roy Walker (Lee Pace) has had his legs paralyzed from a fall and now lies in a bed awaiting care. A little girl, Alexandria (Catinca Untaru) with a broken arm looks to make friends with the man, and so approaches and begins a conversation.

What transpires next and throughout the film is the tale of a man telling a child a story, something that has happened and will happen many many times. Only this time it is magical.

Alexandria, who is played wonderfully by a Romanian actress, listens to Roy’s story and begins to take it all in, and suddenly we are aware that we are viewing the story from the mind of the child, and a child’s mind is a mysterious and grasping place.

We come to learn the story of a band of 5 misfits, each intent on revenge towards the evil Governor Odious. The group consist of: An ex-African slave, an Italian bomb expert, an Indian (told to us that he is from India), Charles Darwin and his pet monkey, Wallace, and lastly the Black Bandit, who we come to realize is Roy having inserted himself into the story.
As these men begin their journey from a deserted island with the help of swimming elephants we begin to see that we cannot believe what we are seeing. Themes of suicide and anger permeate the underlying depths of the story, but it is the chemistry between the sorrowful, paralyzed actor and the immensely sweet and endearing Alexandria that holds the tale together. So wonderfully natural is the child’s acting that you feel like you are invading on a nighttime story session being told in her bedroom.

From here the story takes on a life of its own, with Roy speaking the words and Alexandria creating the fantastical pictures and story in her head. To try and do justice to the images with words is absurd, and I can only say that, maybe if you took an artist’s pallet and threw it against a Jackson Pollack, you might, just might, understand the explosion of color that will come at you from all angles.

In researching the back story to this film some incredible feats come to light. Tarsem, who created the similar world of 2000s The Cell, created this film as his passion project, his need to give something to his craft. And so, finding himself alone, sold everything and financed the three-million dollar project personally, as he shot on location in some 18 countries over many years. According to those involved, no computer-generated effects were used, which is absolutely mind-blowing considering the vast array of unfathomable scenic beauty. Were some tricks employed? I am certain, but the how and why are not important. Premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2006, distribution became a problem. Eventually it was picked up by David Fincher and Spike Jonze, and it made its US debut in the Summer of 2008.

Along with a wonderful score and a compelling story line, this film must be viewed if for nothing more than the reason we view great pieces of art hundreds and thousands of years after they are created.


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