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Tarsem's FALL ascends to Toronto!

Hey folks, Harry here with another piece from, MeTheHead, this time upon Tarsem's THE FALL. You may remember Tarsem from the debacle known as, THE CELL - and Moriarty's famously "racist" tagging of him as "Tarzan". Ahhh - I remember Mori being tormented for weeks upon end with that one. Such good ol days. Anyway - it seems that the failure of THE CELL to do particularly well, sent Tarsem on a personal journey to create material more to his personality - as he's written, produced and directed THE FALL - and at least to MeTHeHead - it is a vast improvement. Or maybe, it's just that he doesn't have JLo to deal with anymore.

Hey Harry, Thanks for posting my Moore/Borat review (and comparing me to a real journalist!) I sent this review of The Fall out twice last night but it didn't seem to make it, so here it is again (third-time-lucky, I hope)...

Hi again, guys. MeTheHead here again with a review of Tarsem Singh's The Fall, which screened today at the Toronto Film Festival.

Tarsem Singh proves that he's much better than the material he had to work with in The Cell (2000), with a clearly much more personal project (he wrote and produced, as well as directing) called The Fall. The central story takes place in a remote 1920's hospital where a small girl named Alexandria (Catinca Untaru) is recovering from a severe looking shoulder injury incurred in a fall while trying to pick oranges. One day she happens to meet Roy (Lee Pace)- a stunt or "gag" man for the "flickers" or moving pictures- who seems to have injured himself out of a future in a particularly reckless stunt, even for those times. He is a clearly unhappy man who- through his own carelessness- unwittingly leads Alexandria to believe that he intends to entertain her with a lavish, epic story of exotic heroes and far off places. Much to his surprise, the girl comes back the next day as he so flippantly instructed her to do, and he must come up with a story. And so we are taken along into a world that- on the surface- is a ravishing, seething, enchanted fantasy land of earthy magic and obscure ritual, but also betrays hidden meanings and festering hurts.

As our eyes are dazzled by absolutely delicious visuals (I know, it sounds like too much, but there's something unbelieveably sensual about this film) our minds are jolted by the poignancy of mere misunderstanding, of the beauty of misinterpretation (when Roy refers to an "Indian" in the story, Alexandria- possibly because Roy promised her a story about India the previous day- pictures an East Indian setting, even when Roy refers to the man's "squaw"), and the power we can wield over the minds of the very young. Roy is not a bad man, but he is desperate, and he abuses the influence his stories have over Alexandria in a very careless- even dangerous- way.

The performances in the film are very good on the whole, but little Cantica Untaru is a revelation. She is either an absolute prodigy of an actress, or Singh somehow managed to convince her that every scene she was in was actually really happening at the time. There's a genuine simplicity in her manner and her way of taking things in that just doesn't seem cinematic at all- she is a real child, not a precocious child actor who seems to be consciously showing off what a pro she is. There is a moment where Roy tries to communicate the abstract concept of spiritual salvation to her- having misinterpreted an innocent act on her part- and I would guess that the whole thing was improvised, and the child really didn't know what he was talking about. Singh is clearly telling us that this is a different kind of story about how children and adults communicate with one another; this girl isn't going to pull up her bootstraps and be the adult for both of them because...well...she's not an adult...she's a child, for shit's sake. It's like if someone came along and made an animated movie about animals that didn't anthropomorphise them in any way, and even went to great lengths to dispell those myths about how just like humans animals are, thank you very much Walt Disney. Lee Pace's perfomance as Roy didn't really register with me in a big way until later in the movie, when Alexandria implores him to continue the story after some serious shit has gone down, and his dire state of mind completely overshadows any concern for the girl's feelings as he pours all of his bitterness into the tale. There is conflict in his selfishness; he was probably once a better man.

This movie also loves movies. There are- for instance- clearly inentional parallels to The Wizard of Oz, in the way that people Alexandria sees in real life show up as characters in the story, and- by the end of the film- you will sense a deep love for the long-gone silent era, tempered by a knowledge that Hollywood was chewing up human beings and spitting out celluloid from the very beginning. Also, there seem to be symbolic references to subjects like collonialism of both the geographical and cultural kind in the plights and roles of the four heroes in the story. A lot of this is just occurring to me, hours after leaving the theatre. It's that kind of movie (or I'm just kind of slow).

I truly hope that The Fall enjoys the kind of success that will open the door for Tarsem Singh to work more on his own terms, and not have to do things like the Westworld remake that appears to be his next feature.


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