Friday, September 26, 2008

The Fall - movie review

Mr. Mouse is always accusing me of hyperbole but in this case there's no exaggeration: The Fall (directed by Tarsem Singh) is the most gorgeous and visually stunning film I have ever seen. It is absolutely incredible, produced with the director's own money, filmed for over four years in over twenty-four countries around the world (including India, Argentina, Chile, Indonesia, Cambodia, Egypt, Fiji, the Maldives, China, Namibia and Nepal) and incorporating no CGI-effects. And it showed absolutely nowhere in this state, thus forcing me to wait for the DVD.

The plot is simple, a story-within-a-story framework. Cutie-pie Alexandria, a six year old migrant fruit picker, is stuck in a hospital after having fallen out of an orange tree, breaking her arm. Mischievious, curious and bored to death, she likes to wander the halls of the hospital and soon discovers Roy, (Lee Pace, "Ned" from Pushing Daisies) a silent movies era stunt man who is injured during the filming of a movie. Roy, despondent over the accident and losing his fickle girlfriend to the movie's leading man, is nonetheless charmed by Alexandria. He begins to tell her a story about five heroes, unlikely men who have banded together to defeat the evil Odious, a powerful man who has wronged each one of them.

The clever thing is that although we hear Roy's words telling the story, the images we see come from Alexandria's imagination - and it is big and colorful and boundless. As Roy gets to know his little friend, however, he begins to manipulate the story - and her - to his own ends, stopping at the most exciting times and asking her to do things for him, like raid the pharmacy for more morphine. The heroes' predicament becomes more and more dire as Roy's own physical and emotional distress grows. By the movie's gripping and tear-inducing climax, it is completely up in the air if anyone - the main characters or the characters in the story-within-the-story - will survive.

The little Romanian girl who plays Alexandria, Catinca Untaru, was discovered by the director just for this movie and she's just perfect: cute, funny and not at all precious. Most of her scenes with Lee Pace were at least partially improvised and they are lovely together.

For some reason that I simply cannot fathom, the U.S. gave The Fall an R rating for violence but both Iron Man and The Dark Knight were far more violent than this spectacular film. There are some sword fights and guns and arrows but certainly nothing graphic.

The Fall is a feast for the eyes (Roger Ebert called it "a mad folly, an extravagant visual orgy") and a joy for the heart and mind. You will either love it or, if you have no patience whatsoever for fantasy, hate it. I've never seen anything like it before and I loved it loved it loved it.

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