Friday, November 26, 2010

The Fall

2006, US/India, directed by Tarsem (Singh)

Shot in some 18 different countries, Tarsem's second feature is both a gorgeous travelogue - at times it's like a National Geographic greatest hits - and a self-deprecating fable, entirely aware of its own potential portentousness and using humour to keep the tall tale grounded. It's also a surprisingly deft commentary on the magic of early movies, seamlessly integrating action sequences from invented films of the 1920s, and paying homage to the extraordinary feats of early stuntmen by avoiding computerised special effects. The film interweaves the framing story of an invalid in a Los Angeles hospital with the yarns he spins for a fellow patient, a little girl. The boundary between reality and invention is always fluid, and is comprehensively breached as the film progresses, with the storyteller and his audience suddenly intruding into the stories. The location work is quite extraordinary, a gorgeous cascade of imagery from Italy to India, with dazzling geometric patterns and colours (such as in the shot of Jodhpur, above); the warm, languid atmosphere of the hospital allows us to return, briefly, to earth between chapters.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States