Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Fall

Tarsem Singh, India-US, 2006 (7.8*)
This visually striking film from Singh (The Cell) really requires two ratings, as others have done, as there are two distinctly different stories here. The main story is that of an injured, semi-paralyzed stuntman (Lee Pace) recovering in an L.A. hospital in 1920. He befriends a curious little girl of six named Alexandria, wonderfully played by Romanian Catinca Untaru, who is there for a severely fractured arm. Much of her dialogue was ad-libbed, as director Singh said 'she won't buy any words written by screenwriters anyway'.

Roy has lost his career, his fiance, and as a result has become suicidal. He tells the girl a fantasy story in fragments each time he sees her, tailoring the story to suit her expectations and to keep her interested. His fantastic tale involves five mythological heroes, starting with Alexander the Great, since his audience is named after him, who is lost in a desert land without water for his army.

This tale eventually expands to include a freed slave, a masked bandit (who is Roy in disguise), a mystic born from a tree, and naturalist Charles Darwin and his pet monkey, who gives him many ideas which Darwin can apparently understand, even though spoken in 'monkey'.

Various scenes of this tale are shot in Italy, India, Chile, South Africa, Spain, and other worldly locations, making this a visual treat to devour - a veritable smorgasboard of cinematography. People are often dwarfed by immense landscapes or opulent palaces. Detracting from the fantasy is the story set in the reality of the hospital and Roy's depression.

At times feeling like a fantasy from Fellini or Antonioni, or a painting from Magritte or Dali set in motion, the visual feast offsets the hospital story and the two are interspersed enough to keep the viewer engrossed. The acting from child newcomer Untaru, with a wonderful Romanian accent when speaking in English, is simply amazing - you can't help but fall in love with her. However, the acting from Lee Pace, better known as the pie chef on tv's wonderful fantasy Pushing Daisies, leaves a lot to be desired. I kept thinking this would have been a perfect part for versatile actor Tim Roth, but it's above the dramatic talents of Pace, who's better suited to comedy.

As soon as I saw the visual landscape, I thought, 'this is simliar to The Cell', and as it turned out, it's from the same director. Where that film was dark and foreboding, the fantasy portions of this one are light and airy, like a balloon trip over wonderland. Not many films are this visual - it brings to mind Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Cell, Antonioni's Red Desert, but it's much lighter than all of those; just don't expect a very satisfying story from the reality side.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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