A Slice of Fried Gold

The Rise and Fall of Tarsem Singh

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Anyone who has seen film director Tarsem's the Cell (that forgettable psychological thriller that stars Jennifer Lopez) knows the guy makes dynamic looking visuals look easy. Since he released that film however, he had pretty much disappeared and I had forgotten about the guy until about a year ago, when I started reading about a movie of his that he was finding it impossible to release. Although it was made in 2006, the Fall couldn't find a distributor until it was finally backed by two awesome directors: Spike Jonze and David Fincher.

After they got involved, it had a short theatrical release in 2008 and made next to nothing but started drawing some adoring fans, such as Roger Ebert and seemingly the entirety of music website Absolute Punk (a place with a fantastic Entertainment forum with tons of great users). It was released on DVD in early 2009, and after renting it twice before and never watching it, I finally picked it up on Blu Ray and watched it.

I'm going to skip the obvious part of the film to talk about first (the visuals) and go straight to the actual meat of the film. From what I read, a lot of critics and people out there found the movie to be a beautiful bore, to paraphrase. That the story itself was subpar in comparison to the visuals, and that it was all style and no substance. I could see how they would think that, as really, the entire plot is effectively a little girl giving a man a reason to live again, and that is a pretty thin plot (but expanded greatly by using the fictional world Roy Walker - brilliantly played by Lee Pace - creates for little Alexandria - played by newcomer Catinca Untaru). With that said, ultimately the entire movie rests on how you take in their relationship.

To me, you'd have to be a new level of cold not to be roped in by their chemistry, which (aided by Tarsem and Pace's decision to pretend that Pace is actually paralyzed like his character and to never introduce Untaru to Pace but only to Roy) is as intense and natural as you can get on the screen. Casting Untaru and essentially giving her a framework of what is going on and then just letting her react naturally to everything works out incredibly well, and Pace's natural charm works perfectly to keep the movie going and giving it a truly organic feel. The emotion between the characters in the climactic scenes is tangible, and really pulls the whole movie together to be something more.

It'd likely be a very good movie even with average visuals. What Tarsem creates on the screen has to be considered some of the greatest visuals ever conceived for film. The fact that Tarsem did it over four years in 20 different countries and without the aid of CGI makes it completely unreal. Some sequences are so jaw droppingly beautiful, both in terms of the visuals and the musical cues used, that you may have to repeat them just to figure out exactly what happened in the scene. That's how you know the visuals are good - you're so enraptured by what you're seeing you can hardly interpret what you are hearing.

This movie, with the possible exception of Planet Earth, is effectively the reason why Blu Ray was created. To not watch this on Blu Ray is to cheat yourself out of the full experience. For once in my life, I am going to use awesome to describe something and actually use it correctly. This movie is awesome, in the sense that it inspires awe in you as a viewer. I'm very thankful Tarsem spent four years of his life on this, and I think it was time well spent. I highly, highly recommend seeing this film.

If you don't believe me yet, go here to check out the opening title sequence. It is a black and white stunner set to Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A Major. Gorgeous. Thanks to the Art of the Title for posting that.


Anonymous said...

Agreed. Check out another gem, "Baraka."

Art of the Title

Troy Olson said...

Totally agree -- I loved this film. I thought the story throughout was very well played, especially when you consider that the young actress playing Alexandria pretty much ad-libbed all of her lines, so her reactions are to Pace are somewhat genuine.

I can watch that opening credit scene over and over...it's simply beautiful.

I'll have to check it out on BluRay, as it's probably even more incredible to look ata.

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