A labor of love from Tarsem Singh (who often prefers to go by just “Tarsem”), the musical video director who made his feature debut with 2000’s “The Cell,” “The Fall” was paid for out of pocket by the filmmaker and shot over the course of four years. The film, about a movie stuntman (played by “Pushing Daisies”‘ Lee Pace) who narrates a fantastical story to the five-year-old girl with whom he’s in the hospital, is certainly visually striking, but reviews are mixed as to how well it all actually comes together. “[L]acking the ability to fashion cohesive tales driven by engaging characters, Singh overcompensates with his trademark visual palette and loses a hold on both in the process,” sighs Michael Joshua Rowin at indieWIRE. “If the human details are often problematic, the IMAX-grade bombast, ceremonial camera, and Jodorowsky-esque eclecticism still combine for a singular spectacle,” counters Nick Pinkerton at the Village Voice.
At the New York Times, Nathan Lee describes “The Fall” as “a real bore” and wonders at the way the girl is “cognizant, it would seem, of the full repertory of high-gloss, empty-headed pictorialism deployed by corporate advertising.” Tasha Robinson at the Onion AV Club admits the film “is pretentious to the point of laughability,” but finds “the structure is so delicate, the ideas are so ambitious, and the imagery is so hellishly flamboyant that it’s easy to fall into Tarsem’s over-the-top vision… It’s the most glorious, wonderful mess put onscreen since Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.” Slant‘s Ed Gonzalez believes the film to be insufferably self-indulgent: “Shunning logic and compassion, The Fall is a bedtime story impeccably designed to flatter its own maker.” Armond White at the New York Press writes that “Tarsem has that David Fincher problem of creating TV-flimsy imagery that lacks the spatial and emotional weight of true cinema. In the final sequence, Tarsem connects Alexandria and Roy’s wishfulness to silent film heritage and the mass audience experience. Yet The Fall remains remote and unengaging.” But Glenn Kenny at Premiere disagrees, finding that it “works like crazy as a multi-leveled, smart, jaw-droppingly beautiful, big-hearted piece of entertainment… I can’t quite bring myself to call it visionary. But it’ll more than do until the genuinely visionary comes along, as that doesn’t happen too often, especially these days.”
[Photo: “The Fall,” Roadside Attractions, 2006]