A review of “The Fall” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: **

Rating: R for violence and vibrant bloodshed

Run Time: 1 hour, 56 minutes

 

 

There’s a decent little movie lurking somewhere deep inside this visual panoply that positively chokes on its own symbolism.

Director Tarsem Singh (“The Cell”) is master of the sumptuous guise, each frame saturated in vivid color and sly innuendo. Innocence appears in the form of full-time hospital patient Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), an observant 5-year old cherub for whom the corridors of the cavernous sick ward are a lonely playground.

Alexandria’s explorations reveal an injured and depressed movie stuntman named Roy Walker (the underrated Lee Pace) who appears to be reeling over the death of an absent lover. Man and child strike up a quick friendship based on psychological pain and need.

Roy has an agenda with a Capital A; pain pills and lots of them. He wheedles Alexandria into his good graces by virtue of catchy storytelling, encouraging repeat visits while begging the child for favors involving a hands-off medicine chest.

Weaving a spell of poetic fire Roy spins tales of an odious and powerful governor who battles a ragtag bunch of masked bandits (among them a slave, a naturalist and an anarchist) on an exiled island while black-skinned mystics, water-treading elephants and the ubiquitous burning trees jockey for vanity project glory.

 

Fall” is abstract to a fault and I cop to some plot confusion. It’s cutting-edge when the focus is on the here and now – the now a Technicolor 1920s Los Angeles pulsating with potential -- but the fantasy sequences are flamboyantly egregious; “Altered States” meets Alfonso Cuarón’s “A Little Princess” without benefit of a narrative life preserver.

Chemistry between the leads works some magic and Untaru is a sweet little charmer. His “Apocalypto” on speed approach aside I can’t help but admire Singh’s offbeat and original approach. If only I understood it.