Tuesday, 29 November 2011
Tarsem: Are the mighty fallen?: Comparison of Immortals and The Fall
Being a fan of Greco-Roman myth, the prospect of the Immortals film was exciting. Notwithstanding some amazing imagery, the rag-bag plot (which was almost aggressively confusing) played fast and very loose with the mythology. People, the stories are rich enough without your meddling! No-one looked happy to be there (except maybe Stephen Dorff's pecs). Mickey Rourke played the baddie who, when he's not squishing eyeballs, is plotting to (yawn)...destroy the world. What happened to our postmodern villain who sports a little gray with their black? Not to mention his underlings terrible taste in hats. Frankly, if I'd been him, I would have been squishing my own eyeballs out just so I didn't have to look at them.
Add wooden acting to this and you'll understand my building sense of frustration. The film's 'love' scene was possibly the worst example of this. Superman-to-be Henry Cavill and Slumdog's Frieda Pinto (plus stuntbum?) looked like locking lips was a fate worse than, and no amount of good lighting could make up for the actors lack of enthusiasm.
It reminded me of seeing an Eastern European opera house's version of Tosca (I spare their name because they cannily gave all the reviewers bottles of champagne). This is one of my favourites (although admittedly my knowledge of Opera is limited) full of passion and fire with a kick-ass heroine who stabs the villain and then hisses "taste my kiss!" (I too play fast and loose with the libretto here, but go with me). Anyway in this particular production the soprano was a woman of a certain age, not in the first blush of youth etc. and her young tenor was apparently not up to the numerous clinches that the script calls for.
Every time he had to kiss her he would (very noticeably I might add) put his hand over her mouth and kiss it frantically for about 0.2 seconds. That sort of thing is bound to put a damper on your ardour. After all, no-one wants a guy who gets more excited about one of his own appendages than you. And that was a better love scene than the one in Immortals .
Still the most frustrating thing of all was the glimpses of artistry that shone through. Tarsem definitely has an eye for a decent shot, which brings me to The Fall.
Luckily, Mike had already bought The Fall before we saw Immortals. I still don't understand why I never heard about it when it came out as this film is a thousand times better than the blockbuster behemoth which followed it. Telling the story of an injured stuntman with a broken heart who befriends a sick little girl in order to trick her into getting him the pills he needs to commit suicide (I'm telling you its a heartwarming tale!). Gap-toothed ingenue Catinca Untaru gives hands down the best child actors performance I have ever seen. As Roy (Pushing Daisies' Lee Pace) spins her his 'epic' tale the movie takes you all over the world from one exotic and mindbendingly beautiful spot to another as his five bandits seek revenge on the evil General Odious. Tarsem lovingly sets up each and every shot, drenching the viewer in a melange of exquisite imagery and lush colours. I have long been a fan of films that mix reality with dream and this film effortlessly merges the two, whilst maintaining the painfully real emotional core that is the relationship between Roy and Alexandria. If you aren't crying by the end then you have a heart of stone.
With locations spanning different continents, the logistics for creating this film must have been mind boggling. I have since heard that Tarsem practically financed the film himself, and therefore its not hard to imagine how Immortals came about. Now that I know what he is capable of I just hope the wack of cash he gets for it allows him the creative freedom to create something else like The Fall.
Top 5 movies merging reality/dream landscapes:
1. The Fall
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
3. The Science of Sleep
4. The Life Aqautic with Steve Zissou
5. Pan's Labyrinth