Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Chris' #79: The Fall (Tarsem Singh, 2006)

Starring: Lee Pace, Catinca Untaru, Justine Waddell
Director: Tarsem Singh
Writers: Tarsem Singh, Dan Gilroy, Nico Soultanakis
Release Date: September 9, 2006 but it didn't reach the U.S. until May 30, 2008

IMDB Synopsis: In a hospital on the outskirts of 1920s Los Angeles, an injured stuntman begins to tell a fellow patient, a little girl with a broken arm, a fantastic story of five mythical heroes. Thanks to his fractured state of mind and her vivid imagination, the line between fiction and reality blurs as the tale advances.

First Time
2009 or 2010, at my brother Brent's old apartment in Greene, NY. I think he had recently purchased an HDTV and a blu-ray player, and Jeff suggested this as a movie we should test them out with.

Why it's on the List
Films 82 and 81 on my list were connected by similar themes of identity and white privilege. 80 and 79 are appropriately paired because of their visual beauty and their polarizing directors. The difference between Darren Aronofsky and Tarsem Singh, however, is that I don't stand by Singh's other films (though I've never seen The Cell). Singh, like Aronofsky, has made a string of bad films recently, which may have soured people's opinions of his earlier work. For me, Singh could put out a bad movie every month for the next year and I'd still love The Fall.

As was the case with The Fountain, I wondered if a rewatch of The Fall would hold up for me in my thirties, and it absolutely delivered. Cantinca Untaru, who plays the little girl, Alexandria, in this is fucking amazing. This might be my favorite performance by a kid actor in all of film, but it'd be interesting to think on that some more. Untaru is so natural in this, and while I'm sure a lot of her lines are improvised, she also does some nice acting work as well. Much of the appeal of this film comes from her performance, as well as her interactions with the stuntman, Roy, played by Lee Pace.

Yes, the film is visually gorgeous, but I'm not sure that I would enjoy it as much if you removed Untaru and Pace. I don't understand why critics only wanted to praise the cinematography, though I can also see that as a reason why certain people don't like it. Maybe it is "too perfect" or it's beauty overload for some.

Pace and Untaru have such great chemistry in this. Normally I wouldn't care about this kind of thing, but I actually hope that the two still communicate with each other to this day. It seems like they really struck up an emotional bond, one that I'm sure was pretty difficult to walk away from. But Lee Pace is also very patient with Catinca; he listens to her and treats her as an equal. Pace has been playing a lot of villains lately, and while he does make a good bad guy, I love him here as a likable but very flawed character. Their relationship is equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming.

I love the story that Roy tells and I love that Alexandria contributes and eventually becomes a character in it; it's a fun play on narrative. But the story itself presents a band of heroes, all with different skills and backgrounds. It gives a multicultural feel to the film that I appreciate. The film feels very inclusive, but probably could use one or two more heroines.

Outside of the story, the hospital setting works very well. Normally they are awful places, but this particular one functions like a small community. It's a living, breathing place.

The locations in this are beautiful but big props to the costume, set, and production design people. I don't need every film to look like this, but everything here works for me.

I also love that the film doesn't take itself too seriously. I'm sure others would argue that, but there are plenty of silly lines and moments in it--for example, when Governor Odious comments on his own death.

Without touching on the ending too much, I still get emotional when I watch it. The last scene between Pace and Untaru doesn't hold anything back. Cantinca's reading of, "She loves him," is heartbreaking and Lee's line of, "We're a strange pair, aren't we?" is a wonderful note to end the story on.

And not that this is a spoiler, but The Fall ends with everyone in the hospital watching a film play out on a hand crank projector. Then it cuts to a montage of stunts from films in the 1920s and teens. Like Scorsese's Hugo, it's a nice love letter to stunts and to film. I mean, really, what's not to like?

Additional Notes/Stats
  • This is the only Tarsem Singh movie on my list and the only one I've actually seen. I might watch The Cell at some point, but I don't care about the others. If one of his upcoming movies gets some good buzz, I might check it out. I don't stand by his other work, but I am rooting for him.
  • This is it for Lee Pace. I like him in the things I've seen him in, but most of the movies he's done kinda blow. Pushing Daisies is the only other thing I enjoyed.
  • As great as Catinca Untaru is in this, I'm kinda glad she wasn't cast in a bunch of movies as a result. Maybe that would've taken away some of the magic of her performance in this.
  • This is one of two films on my list about a movie stuntman. More controversial directors on the way.


  1. I'm with you on this one. I thought it was great when it came out. I haven't seen it since. Quite honestly, I had (unfairly) forgotten all about it. It definitely predated film club, but not by a lot. I probably saw it on DVD in 2007. Brandon and I may have talked about this one in person, but I don't remember ever mentioning it on any of the blogs. Did you ever post anything about it? I don't remember anything.

    1. Just checked my old blog--I briefly mentioned it a couple of times but those mentions were kinda buried among talk of other movies. I'm a little relieved to hear that you're a fan...I was starting to think that I was the only one. I don't understand the hate. It has everything I want from a movie. I'll probably move it up my list.