Monday, September 22, 2008

DJG's Weekend Watcher

The Fall * * *
Directed by: Tarsem Singh / 2006 (Wide-Release 2008)

I didn’t plan it, but on the day before the first day of Fall I watched “The Fall”. Though, nothing really to do with my favorite time of year, indeed the film's visual department stacks pretty well in comparison to the landscaped beauty that Fall change has to offer. It is laboriously lavish, almost at times exhausting for the viewer, wide screened with real sets that seem to drip from many locations of the globe. Some critics and fans wetted their pants for it, but past the visuals “The Fall” simply falls (no pun intended) into the bin of films that I respect more than I can silver platter…films that are more about style than substance or an equal balance of both. In the end, actually even in the middle, I was pretty disappointed with it and struggled a lazy Sunday afternoon through it. I don’t aim to sound like a jerk, but my favorite parts were the beginning and end. The bookends served more emotional punches and much more exciting filmmaking meat for me than the insides, which were vivid but seemed to be dead weight and mildly bland like “White Boy” Mexican food (the bland brand of non-authentic “anything”). One could sort of compare it to a Terry Gilliam (Brazil) meets Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie) production spectacle in some ways, but it just felt like it was missing something to convince me I was watching the epic that was supposedly being told on screen. I feel too much time, skill and patience was put on the visuals to carry the story and the acting was shoved backward. That's not a bad thing if balanced well like most Gilliam and Jeunet films, but it fell short for “The Fall” (again, no pun intended). I also feel that newcomer Lee Pace (T.V.’s excellent “Pushing Daisies”) was poorly chosen to lead a film like this as he was distracting and some of his acting had me cringing even when his mouth was closed. In fact, the acting felt like an after-thought to me. The story, going back and forth from a 1920s L.A. hospital/infirmary to a timeless and somewhat cliche fantasy epic told from one bed-ridden patient to another was simple and somewhat lovely, but just didn’t quite do it for me. My so-so with “The Fall” boils down to writer/director Tarsem Singh. Whom, I respect for tackling the film as a four year long pet project, feeding his own millions to it and for not relying on computers as visual support (major bonus there). However, I felt the same way before, during and after his only other film, “The Cell”. I was excited to see that one too, thought it was visually pleasant but was pretty disappointed and so-so with it and never wish to invest my time or care again. Tarsem is known for directing successful music videos for random recording artists like En Vogue, Deep Forest and R.E.M., but he doesn’t seem to make the jump from a 3 or 4 minute visual piece to a two hour film with the masterful ease that David Fincher and Spike Jonze can (who, both coincidentally "present" “The Fall”…whatever “presenting” means these days?). Although I don’t think he should completely stay away from full feature films, I just think that if Tarsem should wish to stick to such visual highlighting, then he really should push and pave new ground for two hour musical events or something to that special effect. Or, he should just make something look cool and pregnant in thought, place a score over it and let critics and fans try to decipher the storytelling in cryptic fashion like a Matthew Barney art house mojo or something?


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