Friday, August 15, 2008

The Fall (2006)

Filmed in 18 countries over the course of 4 years and claiming to use no special effects, "The Fall" is easily one of the most staggering visual exercises to be released in theaters this year (although I still give props to "Speed Racer.)" Indian film-maker Tarsem follows up "The Cell" with a complete departure in tone and subject matter, with this adaptation of the Bulgarian film "Yo ho ho."

Set in the early 20th century in Los Angeles, and with the rise of cinema looming in the background, a young stunt man named Roy lies injured in a hospital bed where he meets a little girl with a broken arm named Alexandria. The two of them form an unlikely friendship structured around Roy's captivating storytelling. As he weaves an "epic tale of love and revenge" for Alexandria's impressionable imagination, we see it interpreted in her mind.

The fantastical story he tells is about 5 mythical characters, an explosions expert named Luigi, a masked Bandit, Charles Darwin, an Indian, and former slave named Otta Benga, all of which are hell-bent on revenge against the evil Governor Odious. Roy's tale is loosely based on the love triangle and tragedy of his own life, but we see it populated by the faces that Alexandria assigns it.

The only catch to this tender premise is that Roy is parallelized, heartbroken, and suicidal. His anguish leads him to manipulate Alexandria into stealing "medicine" for him. As the story escalates the line between reality and fantasy blurs for Alexandria, and in her mind the story's end is Roy's end.

The young actress that plays Alexandria, Catinca Untaru, achieves something in the film that is truly noteworthy. She acts exactly like a child. Her sentences are fragmented and curious in tone. She doesn't alway understand things, not cues for exposition either, but just plain things that confuse her. As a result, the conversation between Roy and her seem like real conversations that you have with children. She manages to give one of the best child performances I can ever remember seeing, and that coming from someone who hates child actors.

The film is "presented" by David Fincher and Spike Jonze, both of whom started as music video directors. Tarsem too is best known for his music video and commercials (some of this film was financed by the revenue made from his television commercials). Often it is said that certain films are an exercise in style over substance, and what is usually meant is that said film is all style and no substance. "The Fall" is that rare exception, a film that has substance, but still has an excess of style as well.

"The Fall" screened at 7:10 at the Dobie on 8/14/08

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