Monday, October 20, 2008
All right. Full disclosure.
I love Tarsem’s The Cell. It has its flaws, yes, but it’s got a whole lot of amazing, noteworthy stuff going for it.
There’s Howard Shore’s score, there’s Eiko Ishioka’s costumes, and of course, Tarsem’s very particular visual flair.
So it was that in the wake of The Cell, I began to actively track his possible feature film work. There was a moment in time when his name was associated with the then-in development Constantine, though that ultimately didn’t happen, due, in part, to what he fondly calls “this autistic child of mine,” The Fall.
And now, here we are, some four years and 24 countries later (the story behind the making of the film is equally as interesting as the film itself), and that “autistic child” is now ready to receive guests…
Following a haunting opening credits sequence in which many clues to the subsequent narrative may be found, we find ourselves in Los Angeles, once upon a time (or the early 1920’s, take your pick), as the paths of 5-year old Alexandria (an impressively unaffected Catinca Untaru) and injured Hollywood stuntman Roy Walker (Pushing Daisies’ Lee Pace), cross due to a misdirected message.
What follows is a tender friendship born out of necessity, a poignant celebration of the power of storytelling, and a breathtaking display of Singh’s artistry and passion.
Those who may have mistakenly written off the baroque imagery of The Cell as a barrage of hollow, MTV-styled trifles, would be well-advised to seek out the heartbreaking wonders of The Fall.
Helping Tarsem author this astounding piece of cinematic wonder are a returning Ishioka (who first impressed me deeply with her work on Paul Schrader’s Mishima, and then blew me away with her Oscar-winning efforts on Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula), first-time feature cinematographer Colin Watkinson, editor Robert Duffy (who’d also worked on The Cell), production designer Ged Clarke, and composer Krishna Levy (also responsible for the music of François Ozon’s Huit Femmes).
And of course, the central performances of Pace and Untaru, which anchor the narrative in a very human space, giving the film and its fantastic visuals, the beating heart any good story requires.
Many of today’s crop of feature directors with their roots in music videos and adverts seem much too preoccupied with framing the pretty pictures without paying enough attention to the narrative. With The Fall, Tarsem safely joins the likes of Mark Romanek, David Fincher, and Spike Jonze, as directors who are as much storytellers as they are visualists. (Incidentally, Fincher and Jonze are producers on The Fall, “presenting” the film to us, its eager audience.)
With his autistic child, Tarsem took home, not only a Crystal Bear from last year’s Berlin International Film Festival, but also the award for Best Film from Sitges, considered by some as the Cannes of genre film.
The Fall is a moving, breathtaking tale about the unbridled, impressionable imagination of the young, and how reality and fiction can bleed into each other in a child’s mind.
It’s also about stories, as both lifeline and currency. It’s about their mutability and elasticity, of their organic nature; how the listener can shape the story even as it unfolds. How, in the end, the story is as much the listener’s as it is the storyteller’s, and how the listener can, in influencing the story, also influence the storyteller in turn.
It’s a daring and wondrous piece of work, The Fall, and anyone who loves stories (as any film geek should), really does need to see this.
Parting shot: The Living and the Dead’s Leo Bill is here as Charles Darwin, as you’ve never seen him before…
(The Fall OS courtesy of impawards.com [design by The Arterie]; images courtesy of moviereporter.net and premiere.com.)