I say recent, because Tarsem Singh’s “The Fall” was actually finished in 2006, though it didn’t see a national theatrical release until 2008. Along with the poor distribution it was given, limping marketing and poor reviews have dogged it. I don’t usually write about films while they are still technically in theaters, but I must rise to the defense of “The Fall.” I feel strongly that it is a masterpiece.
The film makes no apologies for its ostentatious presentation; an audacious all-out bid for striking beauty that made many critics uncomfortable. It opens with a black-and-white credit sequence of exquisite slow-motion tracking shots whose meaning will not be clear until later in the film. The shots are in an elegant industrial tableau style not quite in keeping with the rest of the film, yet the dreamlike contrast only helps, making the difference between reality and fantasy into a matter of mood.
So how come critics dismiss this movie so easily? I think a lot of them missed the message I interpreted (hey, I could be reading it wrong), but I don’t think many were bothering to interpret at all. Most saw a film that was big, bold, surreal and shameless and they were unable to reduce it to the pocketbook realism and genre limitations they were used to. Having become so sated on bland mediocrity, this outpouring of flavor and spice turned their stomachs. They came face-to-face with creativity and beauty only to pinch their nose with one hand, turn their thumb down with the other and haughtily declare that they have no use for [sneer] “pretty pictures.”
That said, credit is due to those who have stood against the critical tide. Roger Ebert, one of the few great critics who is powerful enough that he doesn’t feel the need to toe the line, gave the film it’s only major perfect score. Directors Spike Jonze and David Fincher have nobly supported the film. Then, too, audiences who have caught it so far have clearly loved it, if their IMDB support is any indication. Hopefully this niche audience will be justly rewarded, perhaps with no better prize the continued career of Tarsem and other directors who share his audacity and virtuosity.
Walrus Rating: 10.0