June 5, 2008

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The Fall (PG-13)
An injured man weaves a beautiful tale of adventure for the young girl who is a fellow patient at his hospital in The Fall, an odd but grand piece of visual art.

In a fantastical Los Angeles of the 1920s, filled with orange groves and people who work on the flickers, a little girl named Alexandra (Cantinca Untaru) is convalescing from a broken arm at a sprawling hospital full of uniformed nurses and patients featuring a variety of maladies. As Alexandra wanders around running into the man who delivers ice or her favorite nurse, Nurse Evelyn (Justine Waddell) she stumbles upon Roy (Lee Pace), a man stuck in bed with what we believe is possibly paralysis. A stunt man for the movies, Roy seems to at once tolerate Alexandra and half-heartedly try to shoo her away that is until he realizes that she has the ability to drift around the hospital and into places he cant. Using bits of her story Alexandra is an immigrant who works in the orange groves and has, perhaps, a tragic history, Roy begins to tell her a story full of exotic locations and strange but colorful characters who have vowed revenge on an all-purpose villan named Governor Odious (Daniel Caltagirone).
These adventurers include Charles Darwin (Leo Bill), an Indian (Jeetu Verman) and a bandit, who is Roy. These characters set off across an orange desert, travel through a blue city and battle in a fortress high on a mountain top. Throughout the story, Roy occasionally pauses to ask Alexandra questions, such as can she read in English and would she recognize the letters M, O, R, P, H, I, N and E?

Like a dangerous and more violent The Wizard of Oz, the characters of Alexandras real world end up in the story and while there isnt magic, per se, in this world, there are a monkey companion, an explosives expert and other examples of wonder. The characters offer small moments of cleverness or charm or sweetness that keep the fairy tale going even when Roys story seems to stall.

The real stars of this film are its visuals. Lush landscapes, strange costumes, patterns in everything the movie enchants you with sights even when it is a bit confusing and boring in its story. In fact, its likely that The Fall, in which, when it ends, you realize not much really happened, is not all that good a movie. It is, however, shockingly, delightfully wonderful to look at. You could easily turn off the sound and just spend time with the scenes the warrior with a two-horned helmet against the blue sky, the bandit before a red flag, a mysterious woman whose face is hidden behind a stiff, fan-like veil. In fact, motion (though lovely) is almost unnecessary; you could get the best of this movie by walking through a hallway of its stills. B-

Rated R for some violent images. Directed by Tarsem and written by Tarsem, Dan Gilroy and Nico Soulatanakis (from a screenplay by Valery Petrov), The Fall is an hour and 56 minutes long and is distributed by Roadside Attractions.