Eye Candy: Tarsem Singh’s “The Fall”

Lee Pace and Catinca Untaru in Tarsem Singh’s “The Fall” (2006)

Aside from the fact that this 2006 masterpiece from director Tarsem Singh (Mirror Mirror, The Cell) is a visual triumph, it also stars Julliard grad, Lee Pace (TV’s Pushing Daisies,  Spielberg’s Lincoln) in one of his first major film roles. Not only is this film visually stunning, the story and the methods used to direct the actors (especially the young girl) are especially interesting. Tarsem has not been receiving the recognition for his work that he should. According to IMDB, this movie took four years to shoot in 28 countries, using locations themselves instead of special effects. In compliance with the trivia, the DVD features several behind-the-scenes segments that validate these claims. The featurettes are equally as interesting as the film itself. As an audience member, an actor and an avid movie buff, I am surprised that this film, no pun intended, fell under the radar.

Take a look at the fantastic trailer:

Although it won several awards at film festivals for cinematography and even as a film as a whole, it hasn’t gotten nearly the recognition it should be getting even currently. The wins for Ang Lee’s Life of Pi have rubbed me the wrong way. I’m not saying that the film is not valid within the industry, or that the efforts of the effects engineers are unwarranted. I’m simply saying that if you put it up against a film like The Fall which was filmed in the early part of the past decade, you can’t hold a candle to it.

The Fall, through utilizing the beauty of its natural environment, the simplicity of storytelling, and incredible actors, has become one of the best films of the past 20 years. And much like The Fall, this  year’s underdog film Beasts of the Southern Wild shares elements of a young girl and older man (in the case of BOSW it’s Hushpuppy and her father) as well as seeds of fantasy seen through the little girl’s eyes.  Then comes the issue of the acting. While Catinca Untaru had virtually no training and didn’t even speak English when filming began, I think she does a better job in the child actor category than Quvenzhané Wallis simply due to the fact that she learned from her fellow actors about the craft and it shows. Her emotions are varied and dynamic, honest and heart-felt, all while being unforced. At times, Wallis’ “Hushpuppy” seems to be struggling with giving a wide range of emotions. She seems to play “angry” and not actually be angry. Cantinca Untaru, on the other hand, seems to be sad when she is, be angry and frustrated when her character is and all in all, be more honest. But, this is not a comparison of Beasts of the Southern Wild and The Fall. I’m simply illustrating the fact that Untaru’s performance was just as good, if not better, than Quvenzhané Wallis’ at the same age (during filming.) That’s how good this film is. It has an influence over the films that come after it.

In fact, having trained actors alongside Untaru might have helped her performance in more ways than one as evidenced by this tidbit of trivia:

A miscommunication between the casting agent and Catinca Untaru led her to believe that Lee Pace was a real-life paraplegic. Director Tarsem Singh found that this brought an added level of believability to their dialogue, so he decided to keep almost the entire cast and crew under the same impression. Singh had to speak to the actor playing Alexandria’s father and explain that his role was smaller than it appeared, since the script implied that he played the role of the bandit (actually played by Pace) in the fantasy scenes. Apparently it was hard to keep up the lie – a makeup artist walked into a room to find Pace standing and almost passed out from shock.

The behind-the-scenes featurette delves into the trivia by showing the exact moment when Catinca Untaru learned that her co-star was not a paraplegic in actuality, but just a really fantastic actor. It takes an actor with extensive training in both The Method, The Stanislavski System, and even Meisner to pull off something as complex and in-depth as Pace did. It is evident that training does pay off in the end and no matter how natural one’s ability, a class or two in technique always helps.

As far as the visuals in the film, the next clip was shot on location in Taj Lake Palace, Lake Pichola, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India:

Again, in the behind-the-scenes footage of the film, what I find most interesting is the fact that they are on location.  In subsequent interviews about the movie both the director, Tarsem Singh, and actor, Lee Pace reference what it was like to film on location. Actor, Lee Pace speaking about the film:

Everyone should see this film for the visuals, the acting and the fact that it has been severely over-looked by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as well as mass audiences as well. Rent it on Netflix and take a journey all over the world. It is currently available to stream on Netflix.

Two By Two: The Revenge of Julia and JLo

Back in the day, Julia Roberts and Jennifer Lopez actually acted. Like legit, acted. And, back in the day, they both made the same crappy movie–a decade apart. Well, not the same movie. But 2002’s Enough was definitely a rip-off of 1991’s Sleeping with the Enemy. All they did was add a kid to the mix. Thanks, Hollywood. Are there NO ORIGINAL IDEAS ANYMORE? What gives?

Okay, here’s the run-down. Julia Roberts stars in Sleeping with the Enemy fresh off of her successes in Pretty Woman and Steel Magnolias for which is received Oscar nominations for both films respectively. According to the summary, “A young woman fakes her own death in an attempt to escape her nightmarish marriage, but discovers it is impossible to elude her controlling husband.”–via IMDB.

Jennifer Lopez, on the other hand, is the driving force behind Enough; coming off of such hits as Tarsem’s The Cell, Oliver Stone’s U Turn & c0-starring with George Clooney in Out of Sight. According to its summary, “On the run from an abusive husband, a young mother begins to train herself to fight back.”–via IMDB.

Hmmm…something’s fishy. I really want to know who green-lit Enough because it’s essentially the same damn movie. And I paid to see it in the theater. I was 18 and going through a “JLo is a good actress” phase. She’s still a good actress, but she let the fame get to her head. Anyways… Is a decade too long to ask for your money back? Here’s the sitch: Wife is abused by her husband. Wife escapes husband. Husband searches for wife. Husband finds wife. Wife fights back. Wife kills husband. The end. In BOTH movies.

Need proof? Here are the trailers:

The voice-overs for the trailers are nearly identical. I rest my case.

The most prominent differences between Enough and Sleeping with the Enemy are the fact that one has a kid, one doesn’t; Enough has a fight coach, SwtE has a love interest. But BOTH are being pursued by their vicious husbands and take revenge. Grrr. GIRL POWER!

I gotta give the creepy husbands some credit though. It takes a strong actor to play the stereotypical abusive husband and do it differently. Although, Patrick Bergin (SwtE) and Billy Campbell (Enough) both play characters who are excessively wealthy. The difference comes in the snake-oil salesman approach with which Patrick Bergin plays Martin. It’s truly an over-the-top performance. That doesn’t help Julia Roberts performance, which is actually quite good in this movie. Again, Billy Campbell has the suave businessman approach to his character as well, but JLo just seems to be recycling what every other actress who plays an abused wife does–until the end. Then she kicks some serious ass. Too bad the exciting part is only at the end with Enough.

I also think that the writer was trying to play the sympathy card with JLo’s plight because she had a kid. You add a kid to mix and suddenly, it’s the ultimate revenge movie. I noticed this with Ashley Judd’s performance in Double Jeopardy as well.  If hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, then I don’t even want to imagine what that’s like when a child is involved. Apparently it includes massive amounts of strength training and target practice. Julia Roberts, I’m sorry to say, missed out on target practice. Probably because her storyline lacked the “I’m a mother protecting my offspring” element.

If you want to see Julia Roberts rebuild her life after faking her death, or JLo kicking some serious ass, watch these movies. For the time being, Sleeping with the Enemy is available to stream on Netflix. Just for the hell of it, put Enough in your queue and when you get it, just fast forward to the last scene.

Oh, and as a side note, WHY does every movie that has someone “building a new life” include the painting of room? My guess is art therapy for the actors so they can handle  the stress of being in a bad movie.