May 31, 2008

Movies seen and not seen.

Yesterday at the Sundance theater here in Madison, Wisconsin, it was opening night for the "Sex and the City" movie. Women were swarming around and inside the place. Some arrived in groups of 4 and wearing short, tight dresses. The "caffe" area that, at Sundance, replaces the concession stand, had a party atmosphere. Were they serving drinks? I think they were.

But we weren't there to see "Sex and the City." We were there to see "The Fall." Unlike the ladies in little dresses, we did not dress like characters in the movie. That is, we did not wear loincloths or red masks with rectangular eye holes or helmets or diaphanous gowns. But we were just as eager to take in the show on opening night.

Here's the trailer that got me:



Watching the trailer again, I can see that it absolutely accurately represents what is in that movie, so if you like that, go see it. If you don't, don't. Here's the Roger Ebert review that the trailer summarizes in one word ("Magnificent"). And here are a few more Ebert words:
Either you are drawn into the world of this movie or you are not. It is preposterous, of course, but I vote with Werner Herzog, who says if we do not find new images, we will perish. Here a line of bowmen shoot hundreds of arrows into the air. So many of them fall into the back of the escaped slave that he falls backward and the weight of his body is supported by them, as on a bed of nails with dozens of foot-long arrows. There is scene of the monkey Otis chasing a butterfly through impossible architecture.
The monkey belongs to Charles Darwin, who's out on a quest with the Black Bandit, an Italian anarchist, an escaped slave, and a Indian (whom the man has described as an American Indian but the girl has pictured as a man from India). The alternating sequences of fantasy and storytelling reminded me of "The Princess Bride." And there's a satisfying ending that reminded me of [click for spoiler].

The movie has gotten mixed reviews. To the extent that these say the story isn't coherent, I think they are wrong. Pay close attention and you'll see how it makes sense. You have an impoverished 5-year-old child who is listening to a story told by a suicidal, drug-addicted man. The fantasy sequences are the combination of his words and her visualization. The story takes place in the early days of Hollywood and filmmaking is a theme. The man is in the hospital because he was paralyzed in a fall doing a movie stunt, and in putting a story into words he is like a screenplay writer and the girl is like the director, so the slippage between his story and her imagination tells of the writer's loss of control of his story as it is made into a movie. The little girl is in the hospital because she fell out of an orange tree doing her work as a migrant picker. In her eagerness to see the man's story in her head, she's a movie fan.

ADDED: Importantly, this movie was made without CGI. They made models like this:



Better get that explosion right the first time. I hate CGI — I feel visceral revulsion to it. The beauty of "The Fall" is clearly film beauty, not computer tricks.

22 comments:

titushowareyourchakras said...

That movie trailer got you interested in seeing the movie?

I want to see The Strangers. A child murderer interests me.

titushowareyourchakras said...

Where's my Palady Malady.

I think she needs a spanking for being a bad girl.

rhhardin said...

Nice analysis. Not obvious from the trailer, which is more of a WTF-probably-for-women thing: one immediately doesn't care about any of the characters.

Lautreamont Maldororis the most sustained series of figures for writing and reading itself I know. It would have a similar divided audience, I guess.

Palladian said...

Tarsem Singh, the director of "The Fall", got his start directing music videos including REM's "Losing My Religion". Amazing how specific and consistent his aesthetic remained over the years.

bearbee said...

Never heard of Tarsem Singh but here is trailer for The Cell also directed by him. He provides riveting visuals.

Rotten Tomatoes not impressed with plotline.
Ebert gives it 4 stars.

peter hoh said...

Love the trailer. We may try to see it, so I'm going to stop reading this thread, but I'll take a wild guess that the ending reminded you of a certain story involving a lifeboat and a tiger.

Palladian said...

"Importantly, this movie was made without CGI."

Aha, that's why it looks so beautiful. CGI should be a seasoning not the main course.

chuck b. said...

Midwesern women "wearing short, tight dresses"? Is that a good idea?

Christopher Althouse Cohen said...

Many of the best movies get mixed reviews. I thought it was great. I've always liked The Cell, even though that got bad reviews.

Palladian said...

Pedestrian movie reviewers often forget that, in some films, the visuals are the story. "2001: A Space Odyssey" is 141 minutes long but there are only about 46 minutes of dialog in the entire film. The first spoken words occur at 25 minutes 38 seconds from the beginning of the film.

amba said...

Haven't watched the trailer (I'm not much into video online, not sure why, maybe because if I play it my husband will say "What's that?" and then I'll have to explain -- we are always in the same room -- or maybe because I prefer to read words and create my own visualizations), but two things here made me want to see it:

1) You have an impoverished 5-year-old child who is listening to a story told by a suicidal, drug-addicted man. The fantasy sequences are the combination of his words and her visualization. I can remember being a small child, and the magic of trying to visualize the mysterious things adults said or read. It's far more bland and benign -- no impoverished or suicidal -- but I was six when I saw "Guys and Dolls," and imagine what I made of "the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York." I envisioned them floating on the blue ocean, on something like a manhole cover.

2) that the ending reminded you of a certain story involving a lifeboat and a tiger. That was my favorite book in the last 20 years. I completely identified with it (having myself spent many years in an apartment the size of a lifeboat with a large predator) and I cried for a long time when its secret was revealed at the end. I wrote to the author and got an answer. The answer was: don't assume you know which story is "true." Maybe the better story is the true one.

Ann Althouse said...

I did think of "The Life of Pi" at one point, but it's not what the ending reminded me of.

There were also things that made me think of: The Wizard of Oz, Labyrinth, The Neverending Story, Sullivan's Travels.

audio theoretician said...

Hey, that's cheating! I'd go see any movie with Beethoven's Seventh playing throughout the trailer.

TerriW said...

I knew I wanted to see the film -- even before seeing the trailer -- because of this fantastic interview with the director over at the Onion AV Club.

blake said...

They played this trailer prior to Prince Caspian. Not really appropriate.

Did Althouse see The Cell and what did she think?

I'm on the fence as far as seeing this goes. "The Cell" was as beautiful as it was irritating.

Ann Althouse said...

I saw "The Cell" and if you look up in this thread, you will see that my son Chris linked to what I wrote about it.

froggyprager said...

Sounds like a good film- I am more struck by the fact that our new Sundance art theater is playing Sex and the City and had Indiana Jones too....I am not surprized because I predicted that Sundance could not stay in business in Madison just playing art films for a high cost to the limited crowd here who wants to see those films. The few times friends or I have been there the theaters were not even a quarter full.

blake said...

Oh, yes, I think I recall reading that, lo, these many years ago.

I think you and I don't agree much on movies--though it's hard to tell from what you reveal here--but I'd say you nailed "The Cell".

Revenant said...

I agree with Chris; The Cell was a pretty good movie. Very interesting visually.

"The Fall" looks like an interesting movie -- but really, Tarsem Singh has got to start picking better titles.

Eric Trimmer said...

Actually, the title is what made me interested in this film in the first place. I thought it was an adaptation of the Camus story.

But I'm not disappointed to learn otherwise.

Reminds me of "El Topo" and "The Fountain."

I hope it will as strange and mystical like "El Topo."

This guy should direct "100 Years of Solitude," if they ever make a movie from it.

The Deacon said...

Wow. I'm the only person that I know that likes Jodorowsky. Nice to hear, well, read about others...
I also completely agree with you on the "100 years of solitude" idea.

blake said...

Having seen this, now, I think the R-rating is rather harsh.