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Hal MacDermot [Celluloid 05.14.08] movie review fantasy

Year: 2006
Director: Tarsem Singh
Writer: Tarsem Singh, Dan Gilroy, Nico Soultanakis
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: cyberhal
Rating: 7 out of 10

Perhaps the way to really appreciate this movie is to get very high before you go into the cinema. The visuals are amazing but the twisty-fantasy-almost-a-kids'-story falls short. The film will blow your eyeballs away and if you just let your brain kind of drift around, you should really like the experience. Although, this movie isn't for everyone, but I think some people will fall in love immediately.

The story kicks off in early 20th century Los Angeles, in a nursing home. Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), a cute little 5-year-old girl with a broken arm, wanders into the recovery room of Roy Walker (Lee Pace). Roy is a movie stuntman who's badly injured his back in a stunt involving an iron bridge and a horse. Right away we're plunged into some amazing cinematography with the sepia tones of historical Los Angeles, and a scene where the very dead horse is lifted up out of the river by a steam engine.

Roy befriends Alexandria by telling her amazing stories. The twist here is that he's addicted to morphine and wants to use the little girl to get him more! I like Lee Pace in the role of storyteller. It reminds me of the slightly surreal role he has in the TV show "Pushing Up Daisies" (in which he reanimates dead people). Catinca Untaru is a convincing cute little kid, but I'm not much impressed with someone tugging my heart strings, so that's sort of a whatever for me.

Roy's tale features five adventurers. A strong black ex-slave Otto Benga (Marcus Wesley), an Indian mystic (Julian Bleach), and Italian anarchist (Robin Smith), Charles Darwin (Leo Bill) and then Pace himself as the Black Bandit. They are all bound together by their hatred of Governor Odious (Daniel Caltagirone), who's imprisoned them on a desert island. My favorite character is the cool anarchist and his bombs. He's like Lee Van Cleef in Fist Full of Dynamite,. None of this gang says too much, but their costumes are amazing (designed by Eiko Ishioka) like a beautiful princess with a fan for a mask or Otto Benga with curved dear horns for a headdress.

The heroes escape their desert island prison with the aid of a very graceful swimming elephant. After that it's all about crossing dry sandy deserts and hanging out in medieval castles. And kidnapping a princess. This movie was shot across 26 countries so although I can tell you that the red deserts and blue oceans are beautifully shot, I can't tell you exactly where they are. Anyhow, the important thing is the look. The computer game training kicks in: enemy soldiers in black uniforms, magically multiply on repeating staircases. Bright red blood splashes on white sheets. The visual power of the scenes is well set off with a classic orchestral type music score.

Finally, the heroes make it to Governor Odious's imposing fortress. But by now, the real Roy Walker in hospital is so depressed he's trying to kill himself with morphine, and his suicidal tendencies wash over into the imaginary stories he tells. We learn that Roy's cheating girlfriend ran off with another bloke. His innocent young friend Alexandria quickly gets sucked into the desperation and pain. Will Roy's heart be broken again, this time by the beautiful princess? Will Odious kill everyone? Will the love of little Alexandria save Roy? I'm not going to tell you the answer to any of these questions, but I will tell you that the final scene left me with a smile.

I would recommend The Fall to people who want to be visually blown away and can be a bit forgiving in the storytelling department. Apparently, The Fall is closely based on a small Bulgarian movie from 1981, "Yo Ho Ho." It would be fun as a contrast to see this earlier, simpler telling of the tale.

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Ulrik (14 years ago) Reply

Thanks for your review, can't wait the see the film myself. Guess I'll wait for a Blu-ray release since it probably won't be playing in a theatre near me.


Anonymous (14 years ago) Reply

Hot damn, I wanna see this. Big up for the review Cyberhal. Well played old bean.


Cyberhal (14 years ago) Reply

That's top notch old chap ;)


Ryan B (14 years ago) Reply

Damn good review Cyberhal, I want to see this one!


Anonymous (14 years ago) Reply

saw "the fall" at filmfestDC 08 and cannot stop thinking about it. disturbed and enchanted me to the core. images and performances stay with you long after...tarsem's visual style on some other emotional LeveL at times--go out of your way to see this--love it or hate it, you won't forget it


ajlbx (14 years ago) Reply

This is also a cinephile's movie, a Cinema Paradiso for the f/x & stunts set, cooked with an endless location budget, a touch of digital winkery, and costumes by Eiko Ishioka. But it's not all razzle-dazzle! The relationship between Alexandria and Roy has irresistible and genuine cinematic appeal. It's got humor, intelligence, pathos, and complexity. It is an oddball meeting of two generations, two cultures, two languages, and two lives with all the gaps and mysteries that entails. They meet at a moment when both are down and vulnerable, and they fall for each other almost immediately and for different reasons. We see them go down the rabbit hole together, and then surfacing back up, in and out of a fairytale, their emotions and awareness shaken and sharpened in the process. It’s an uncanny romance, a little of tug of war between reality and fantasy, that the convalescing stuntman and the child immigrant worker get into. The narrative is full of falls and breaks and toils, with disappointment and death always around the corner. In the end, I think The Fall is about imagination, about the power of images (especially moving images), and about mortality. It makes an equally wacky and wonderful companion piece to Buster Keaton, del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth, or Tarantino's Death Proof. I just saw it a few days ago and I'm enjoying wrapping my head around it. Must be seen in the big screen!


ossonline (14 years ago) Reply

in response to ajlbx's comments about "digital winkery"
there is ABSOLUTELY NO digital altering of this entire movie, that's the beauty and exactly why the budget was not as high as one would expect, it was shot in a lot of locations, yes, but with tiny local crews that allowed it to be done for very little money
making it even more impressive than your post suggests!


Darryl (12 years ago) Reply

Just a slight correction (or maybe disagreement) about the review: Roy is not addicted to morphine. He simply wants the morphine to commit suicide. I think it's deliberately ambiguous at first, but becomes clear later.

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