The idea of having to see films like this on the big screen was worked into my brain long ago and I’m glad my first experience with it was in this way. Those arresting vistas with rocks of red and skies of blue are about as gorgeous as scenery can get; the way Leone and his cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli utilise the widescreen is hypnotic. Ennio Morricone’s music score is one of the all time greats and it goes without saying that watching Claudia Cardinale (The Leopard) for three hours is hardly unbearable. They quite literally don’t make ‘em like this any more.
It's surely no surprise that the film this reminded me of the most was Ron Fricke's Baraka, which was coincidentally the first film I ever saw at The Astor Theatre. They both share that travelogue form, but it's much more than that, with Tarsem's observations at times feeling as deeply rooted in a spiritual desire as Fricke's do in his 1992 masterpiece. I've seen Baraka many, many times and it strikes me every single time and while The Fall lacks some that documentary's wide-eyed power due to some rather average storytelling, Tarsem has succeeded in bringing a little bit of this world's powerful beauty onto the screen and that's a very powerful thing in itself. Both of these films are about observing our own place in the world and that makes everybody's viewing a particularly singular and personal experience. While The Fall grants itself the Hollywood spine of a plot and characters, it's still essentially a film that observes how we as people cope amidst this crazy world and that's something that be profoundly touching.
The Fall is somewhat of a remake of a Bulgarian film called Yo Ho Ho. I had never heard of it it before, but I'm instantly intrigued. Tarsem has surely expanded that film, whatever it was, to the form we see today, but it's still a rather simple and personal film. The central plot device of a suicidal stuntman telling a fantastical story of lost love and revenge to a small child is frequently filled with moments of human beauty just as much as the lavish location shots are filled with natural beauty. Lee Pace, who I'm to believe is quite well-liked in certain circles for his role in Pushing Daisies, is quite excellent as the stuntman who, in a beguiling black and white prologue, tries to turn movie magic in a death march. And anybody who says the young Catinca Untaru is not one of the cutest buttons they've ever seen is clearly a big fat liar. Seriously. Eiko Ishioka's masterful costume work (I cannot wait for the surefire costuming orgy that will be Tarsem and Ishioka's next collaboration, The Immortals), Ged Clarke's evocative production design and Colin Watkinson's extravagant cinematography all aid Tarsem in bringing this singular film to the screen. Any misgivings I had about the film feel inconsequential when compared to the intense feelings I had when viewing the masterful images on display. A-