Tuesday, September 9, 2008
DVD REVIEW: The Fall
Style doesn't always have to equal substance. The Fall is the latest film from visual auteur Tarsem, who, while his films (or film, having The Cell being his only other film, more on that in a minute) may not be great, they certainly have their own, definite style. The Fall is no different. It's epic, lushly decorated, and has all the similar flares that The Cell and even his famous R.E.M. music video for Loosing My Religion have made this guy famous for.
The Fall stars Lee Pace, probably most famous for being the lead in the ABC series, Pushing Daisies, as an ailing stuntman in '20's Hollywood. While being a stunt double for a "flicker", he botched a jump, and proceeded to break his legs, but the man has much more broken, mainly his heart. While on the same film, Roy Walker fell in love with a co star, who went on to fall in love with the films star, and thus breaking this already broken mans heart. All of that brings him to a local ward where he meets the wonderfully sweet, five year old girl, Alexandria. She had a similar "fall" which lead to her being placed in the ward with a broken arm. Her parents were peasants,who had their home burned to the ground. The two souls strike up a friendship. To make the days go by faster, he tells the girl an epic tale of love, loss, violence, and romance.
It's the tale of five people's journey to take out the oppressive Governor Odious. A slave, who after the death of his brother, decided to seek revenge. An explosions expert, who after being banished, did just the same. Charles Darwin, who after being sent a dead butterfly, decided to join up the hunt, and a mystic, who joined the group after the four men were saved by an elephant, swimming to shore. Our main hero in Oz is the Blue Bandit, who wants Odious dead after he kidnapped and killed his brother, the masked Bandit. However, the story begins to blur the line between reality and fiction,and then the people involved really see what exactly is on the line. This makes for one of my most anticipated films from this year, and it is finally out on DVD. Was it really worth my purchase?
This is really the elephant in the room, so let me get this out of the way. This may be one of the most gorgeous films I've seen in a long time, and it should be no surprise. Not only did Tarsem direct this true piece of art, but it was presented by fellow visionary filmmakers Spike Jonze, and David Fincher. This is one of the most luscious films, set decoration wise, that it really blew my mind. It's like if Guillermo del Toro took all of his time and put it into developing sets, other than characters. That said, the characters in this film, are also really solid. I'm stealing this analogy from the guys over at Filmspotting, but it is so perfect. When the film goes to Oz, it's really stunning. The colors pop off of the screen with Colin Watkinson's cinematography, and the choreography of the first few fight scenes are well done. I haven't seen scenes this year that made better use of all of the aspects of film making since Hellboy 2. Set decoration, costume design, acting, score, direction, cinematography, and choreography really work. However, unlike the Cell, that's not the best part of the film.
Back in the ward, the two performances are stellar. Lee Pace is really solid as a troubled actor who is broken in more than a physical way, and the real star of this film is the 7 year old girl, Catinca Untaru as Alexandria. She shows what true, natural acting is. It's so natural, it seems as though she's not acting. She is so sweet and innocent, and gave a real emotional depth to a story that is not so put together. She is fighting to hear the story, and she will do anything to hear it. She is falling in love with this man who can't love her back, and when this film gets near the end, there is a scene that made my living room get a little dusty. For such a visually stunning film, to get me to be emotionally attached to these characters, proves that this is a truly solid film.
All of that said, the film had some flaws that really took me out of the film, particularly in the story world. When we get back into the story in the story, it really falls apart narratively. They inter cut between the worlds with overlapping dialogue, and while I can see that it could have worked, it wasn't well done in the film. I can see that it sort of played into the worlds blurring, but instead of doing it with spoken word, it would have fit the film much more to do it with overlapping visuals. Also, the characters in the story world aren't compelling, or at least compelling enough. I always caught myself thinking about the visuals instead of what was truly being said or trying to be said in the film. Finally, the film does lag a little bit and the pacing is a little weird. That said,the ending proves that these criticisms are all moot, and if you see the film, you will understand why. It's really a tribute film, maybe an over the top tribute film, but one nonetheless.
Granted, the film may be flawed, but it's flawed in a similar way that the Dark Knight was flawed. Due to it's ambition. The visuals are so stunning, and the story back in the ward is so compelling, that I can forgive it for it's minute flaws in the mystic world. Please, if you get a chance, rent this flick.
If you do, drop me a comment or go leave a post on my wall over on facebook!
Here's the trailer...
THE FALL - 8/10
Visually stunning and compelling for most of the film. Lacks substance when the style weighs heavy, but when it gets back home, it's one of the 10 best films of the year. As of now at least.
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