Wednesday, July 16, 2008

This Inspiring Film Will Haunt Your Dreams

We've been eagerly awaiting the arrival of this film to our local (favorite) art house cinema, and it's finally here, so I ducked out of work an hour early today (Fernymoss had the day off) so we could catch the 4:30 matinée. To say that I enjoyed this film immensely is an understatement, because it is so visually and narratively rich, complex, and indeed stunning that I'm still wowed hours later, and likely for some time to come.

I first learned about The Fall in a post in early June by Annie in Austin at The Transplantable Rose, who originally (thankfully!) tipped me off on the imminent arrival of this amazing film by the director of The Cell (2000), Tarsem Singh. If you've seen The Cell, you'll know what you're in for ... dazzling vistas of images saturated with color, visual bravado and sound ... this is pure film making that will engage your mind, grip your attention and give you one helluva ride through this unique Director's vision. And Tarsem has a vision so distinctive, that after having seen at least one of his films, you'll recognize it instantly from then on.

So, if you'll allow me to diverge from the garden path for just a while, I'd like to give you my take on this remarkable film, now making its way slowly around the country in what is a shamefully under-publicized and lackluster limited release. You have to know to look for this film or you'll miss it (until the inevitable DVD), but trust me, it is so rewarding on so many levels it's worth the effort!

On its most basic level, this film is all about storytelling, both verbal and cinematic, and as such, it mixes up all the classic elemental archetypes and tropes in a great big mental blender, producing a narrative that might at first appear fragmented and disjointed, but ultimately dazzles the viewer when it reaches its oh, so logical conclusion. Tarsem stretches the boundaries between reality and fantasy so skillfully that one can hardly help but get engrossed in it and even a bit confused at moments, but that's really the inspiring part of the process of experiencing this film. It's not a film for the typical Megaplex denizen, and definitely not for those who aren't a bit adventurous in their film choices. However, for film connoisseurs who enjoy the experience of truly savoring a great piece of film making, this is a masterpiece on the par with some of the greats of world cinema (surrealists Luis Buñuel and Dalí came to mind more than once for me).

The seed narrative of The Fall is quite simple: Alexandria, a young girl who fell and broke her arm is in the hospital where she meets
film stunt man Roy, seriously injured (in a fall) who spins captivating tales for her, much to her enraptured delight. The two quickly become friends as the stories become more and more complex, and we soon realize that she sees in him a father figure to replace her own murdered father. Gradually, they both begin to blur the lines between the stories and reality, as elements of both encroach upon each other, seemingly complicating the stories even more, though they all have their own intrinsic logic within the context of the film. Keep that in mind when you see this film, and just relax, let it weave its magic without trying too hard to untangle what initially appear to be narrative knots, and you'll be rewarded immensely for even a passive comprehension of the larger picture. Believe me, such is the skill of Tarsem to pluck all those narrative strands out of the air and weave them into a most satisfying dénouement that pays loving tribute both to classic epic tropes and early cinema.

Yes, it's complex, but it's never deliberately confounding as it unfolds ... and if you're not completely smitten by the performance of young Catinca Untaru as Alexandria, then you probably have a few mean bones in your body stashed away somewhere. Tarsem waited a long time to cast the perfect young girl in this part
(she was probably about 7 or 8 when this was filmed), and he was wise to hold out until he felt he had the right actress. She's such an engaging and natural performer in this role that you literally feel the emotional reactions she has to Roy's ever evolving stories. You'll get misty eyed more than once (I sure did!) and marvel at her wonderful presence. Lee Pace as Roy is every bit her equal when it comes to his performance, but it's really Catinca's film, because everything begins and is resolved within her perspective as listener and eventual participant in the stories....

And yes, ultimately this is an incredible feel good film and you'll likely exit the the cinema smiling inside, despite its violent moments. It's really the storyteller (Roy, Tarsem) listener (Alexandria, the Viewer) relationship that is the brilliant crux of The Fall. To me, this is what distinguishes cinematic Art from utter Dreck. I prefer the Art, thank you. Art leaves you satisfied and fulfilled at some level(s). Dreck is fast food that you forget a few hours later.

Spare, yet compelling, narrative. Visual storytelling on a grand scale (wow that veritable MC Escher scene still takes my breath away!). Natural, plausible (within the grand narrative) performances ... The Fall ranks right up there with some of the most rewarding world cinema of the past, probably, ten years!

This film definitely rates as a (never before awarded) rare High 5 Hibiscus Blooms! And those count around here ...

The official film website is here, and you should definitely view the very high quality trailer there (go to the bottom of the page and click trailer), though the site overall is really heavy on the Flash stuff, so be patient. It's worth the wait (and I'm on high speed).

Thanks for reading, and I'll be back to flowers again tomorrow, one way or another ...

UPDATE 7-21-08:
I saw recently that Amazon has announced pre-orders for The Fall here, so I had to order it tonight! I also ordered the long awaited US release of the classic BBC Series Spaced, starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Jessica Stevenson. If you're not familiar but like the Simon Pegg gang (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), you need to check this one out! Why it's taken the BBC seven years to get this over the Atlantic, I have no clue ....


Roses and Lilacs said...

Good morning IVG. I'm ready for a little detour off the garden path.

Haven't been to a movie in...I can't remember. This one sounds interesting. The theaters are so crowded with elves, dragons, super heroes and super villains, well I'm burned out on all of the above.

It will be a change of pace to watch a movie with a real story line and characters that have some depth--and no supernatural powers;)
Two thumbs up from IVG and Fernymoss.

Mother Nature said...

Thanks for the heads up.

Gail said...

Sounds wonderful, my husband loved it but for some reason I wasn't able to go with I think it is gone!
I will have to rent it from netflix...hopefully that won't mar the experience.

I love the 5 Hibiscus award! I noticed Shady has a fine photo of a malva up!



boran2 said...

Hi IVG. I'll have to look for it.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Marnie,
We don't get out to too many movies either, due to our work schedules differing a lot, so when we really do make the effort, it's for something special like this film. I just hope they get the DVD out sometime relatively soon because it's already on my must buy list, lol.

I hear you on the mainstream stuff, though we will at some point see the new Batman film w/Heath Ledger. I never really cared much for that character until the current incarnation came along in 'Batman Begins,' which was an unusually good film.

See if you can find 'The Fall' first though ... :-)

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi MN,
You're welcome! Sometimes I just have to throw a film into the mix when I feel the urge. :-)

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Gail,
Too bad you missed it, but glad your husband enjoyed it. If he hasn't seen The Cell you might want to get that, because they're so similar stylistically. Thankfully there was no JLo in the new one, hehe. She was 'ok' in The Cell through no effort of her own, lol. She did look quite stunning in some of those dresses though ...

Speaking of hibiscus, I can see buds forming on Lord Baltimore, Blue River and my Disco Belle already. Even the two new ones I have to plant this weekend are budding! And I had 3 Sun Showers blooms open today ... woo hoo!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hey B2,
If it's still kicking around your neck of the woods, do see it in the theatre if you can ... it really benefits from a big screen presentation.

Annie in Austin said...

I'm so glad you like The Fall, IVG - movies are so personal that I sometimes hesitate to recommend them. An Austin indie director linked to REM's Losing my Religion which was one of Tarsem's early video triumphs. You probably knew this already.

I could not live on Art alone however, and have a great love of movies you might label dreck! Although the pond tour will keep me from seeing movies this weekend, if I had time the new Batman would have to wait its turn while I ran off to watch Meryl Streep get wacky in Mama Mia.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi Annie!
I'm glad you pointed this one out (if I didn't make that clear before!) and we're now eagerly anticipating the DVD. Looks like the Fleur CinemaCafé is keeping it at least for one more week. I'd go again tomorrow if we didn't have so much to do here...

I knew about Tarsem's work in music videos, but I've never been real big on them, and didn't know he had worked with REM (never a favorite either, but that's a good song). Youtube is acting up right now and freezing up, but from what I was able to see, looks like classic Tarsem.

I'm not really a true live on art kinda guy, I just play one when I put my critic hat on, lol. I think the right directors can combine both great art and engaging entertainment, so I gravitate toward them... I think the last time I raved on a film here was when I wrote a piece on Volver a while back. Almodóvar is my very favorite director who can successfully combine those two.

I'm psyched to see the new Batman, but will wait a bit. Not into the opening night mania much these days, though we did hightail it out to see Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects on opening night, just in respect for Rob, lol.

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