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.
Directed by the feature THE FALL's producer, WANDERLUST gives some insight into the shooting methods of (bite my tongue, boy do I hate this misused noun!) "visionary" director Tarsem Singh, famed for his classic THE CELL.
THE FALL is a film I would put into the "precious" category, no, not like the Gabourey Sidibe/Mo'Nique opus, but rather meaning too cute or hermetic for widespread consumption. You have to buy into Tarsem's cutesy approach of a story told to a child (and through the child's eyes), which I had great difficulty in relating to. Producer Nico provides useful background.
One is immediately taken by the Herculean efforts to get "the shot", giving us spectacular David Lean vistas that cumulatively tend to wear each other out. The film grossed only $2,000,000 in America (supporting my "too insular" assessment), but looks like a vast budget was perhaps fool-heartedly expended. Hollywood in its declining days being a madhouse, Singh of course was handed $115,000,000 for his third feature, the late 2011 release to come of IMMORTALS, in 3-D, natch. That's five times the budget of THE CELL.
Most telling moment of this docu and its companion piece (also directed by Nico) NOSTALGIA (not listed in IMDb) is the revelation on set that star Lee Pace was not paralyzed after all. This ruse was perpetrated by Lee, Tarsem, Nico and perhaps one other member of the staff to fool the young 8-year-old actress from Romania Catinka Untaru, so as to enhance her performance playing opposite Pace. Commentary by Pace and scripter Dan Gilroy (a truly lucky guy I worked with 25 years ago, who married Rene Russo!) informs us that many of the crew members were angry at the deception, but great directors from Hitchcock to De Sica have used vaguely unscrupulous methods to get the best out of their "cattle" on set.
After watching these globe-hopping setups, I wonder if there's any meaning in such indulgence. I'm an oft-on-the-record deadly foe of the recent trend towards phoniness in filmmaking, typified at one extreme by George Lucas's trail-blazing "let's do away with conventional live action" approach, or the other extreme of the pretend-realism b.s. promulgated by the idiots behind Dogme. But what is one to make of an auteur like Tarsem, who outdoes both Terrence Malick and even the king of wanderlust Vincent Ward in his monomania to get "the shot". Is he merely the end result of a decades-long breeding ground of music video and TV commercial types taking over the director's chair, or is he indeed what fools like to dub "a visionary"?
Key self-relevation occurs when Tarsem wonders aloud if the film he's making will become merely "a w*nk" (the Britishism for masturbation, which oddly enough is FORBIDDEN for typing in IMDb!), or "a bad music video". Let the viewer decide.
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