A Mighty Sight: Though The Fall skimps on story, the film is something to see.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
The Fall is being billed as a magical collaboration between David Fincher (Zodiac, Fight Club) and music vid wizard Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Björk, R.E.M.). Those two creative talents offered encouragement, but the film’s writer-director, Tarsem Singh, evidently didn’t need much prodding to come up with such a slender narrative hitched to such extravagant visuals.
Tarsem, as he prefers to be called, has made a living crafting commercials and their twin brothers, music videos, often set in his native India. In 2000, he directed a sci-fi head-scratcher called The Cell as a vehicle for Jennifer Lopez, but now he’s ready to make an act of contrition: the story of the unlikely friendship between a movie stunt man recuperating from a broken leg in a Los Angeles hospital, circa 1914, and a little girl in the same hospital for her broken arm.
Roy Walker (TV actor Lee Pace) is feeling doubly pained, having been rejected by his girlfriend on the movie set and injured in a fall from a bridge while mounted on a horse during production. Five-year-old Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), on the other hand, is suffering more from social ills. The talkative child of immigrant parents (little Ms. Untaru herself is from Romania), Alexandria broke her arm in another fall from an orange tree while on the job picking fruit with her family, shortly after her father was killed. Her mother needs her back in the orchards to help supplement their income, but naturally she prefers life in the warm and bountiful hospital. The two wounded souls bond when Roy, captivated by his young friend, entertains her with a fanciful story of superheroes and evildoers in a mythical landscape. It’s a ruse to get young Alexandria to steal some morphine from the dispensary– Roy intends to kill himself– but the impromptu tale soon takes on a life of its own in the mind’s eye of the little girl.
From the opening credit sequence, a magnificent black-and-white montage of Roy’s stunt accident set to Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, we’re dropped into the visual deep end. Roy’s yarn sets Alexandria to dreaming about deserts, Dr. Suess-style palaces, a princess (Justine Waddell), the wicked Gov. Odious (Daniel Caltagirone), and a band of warriors, all of whom have counterparts in Roy’s life– it’s their shared fantasy. What gorgeous settings. Singh ransacks the world for images: Bali, Uttar Pradesh, Prague, the Maldives, South Africa, and Chile are among the backgrounds. So what if the front story is a little contrived? Between Catinca Untaru’s personality and Tarsem’s travelogue, The Fall is more than enough to fuel flights of fancy in the romantic and childlike.
THE FALL ( 2 ½ ) Directed by Tarsem Singh • Starring Lee Pace, Catinca Untaru, Justine Waddell, Kim Uylenbroek, and Daniel Caltagirone • R, 117 min • At the Osio Cinemas.