Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tarsem Singh... overwhelmingly underappreciated.

Tarsem Singh, the writer/ director/ producer of The Fall, and previous director of The Cell, may finally have made a film that audiences will react to warmly. In 2000, his first film included Jennifer Lopez as a child therapist who, through unbelievable technologies, helps her patients (in comas) by transporting herself into their subconscious. Then, the fabulous Vincent D'Onofrio , enters as a serial killer who is the only one who knows where his next victim is. The catch? He's in a coma. The rest falls into place. While the story seems pretty ridiculous, and Jennifer Lopez can't be expected to do much spectacular work on screen, the film is outright gorgeous! And the imaginative landscapes of a serial killer's subconscious is extremely well crafted. But alas, it didn't fair too well in the long run. The most credit it gets now is stunning sets and makeup. Which, I'll be the first to agree, are its strong points.

But just this spring, Singh's new film, which he made under just "Tarsem," was released. This time, the story is one more audiences will enjoy and one most audiences need see. The Fall is a "Wizard of Oz-esque" story, with characters from reality blending into the fictional tale Lee Pace's character tells Catinca Untaru's Alexandria in a 1920s Hollywood hospital. With a more family-friendly narrative and an amazing new young actress in Untaru, Tarsem was able to present a more approachable film while still presenting his audiences with his signature vast deserts, bold colors, and surreal sets. The narrative is an interesting one, that unfolds a little shakily through the "real world" and the "story world." But if you are like me, Tarsem's appeal is first and foremost with the image on screen.

These gaps in the narrative some have complained about I would argue for the most part, are completely satisfactory due to the narrative as seen mainly through the eyes of an eight-ear old girl who is not priviledged to know all the details or understand them when overheard. Furthermore, Lee Pace's character's story is uncovered a lot within the fictional world he creates for his young friend. Thus, details change as the story unfolds. This technique is fantastic for realizing how variable and imagined it all is to the young girl, while simultaneously engaging with the man's turmoils in the hospital and his personal battles he tries to keep to himself as long as possible.

Personally, I would've liked to see the darker side of the characters earlier on, but that aside, this was one of those film-going experiences that make you wonder why films like this are not the blockbusters pulling audiences from all walks of life to see them? These lovely art-house films are a treat to see, and certainly an artistic refreshment in comparison to the industrial product of Hollywood (which has its worth as well). But I would have to agree that when I saw this about a month ago, it was definitely one of the best films I had seen all year.

pixar saves our youth from existential meltdown

my childhood relationship with film consists mainly of memories of disney animated films, with some star wars, batman, and wizard of oz mixed in, but for the most part, its safe to say most young adults these days are working off a youth filled with disney princesses, songs of love to come, and princes saving the rescue.
I know, its been said a million times over how problematic the fiction revolving around valiant princes and damsels in distress can be.

(If you aren't familiar- these stories promote the image of the helpless, thin, attractive, young woman who can do nothing but wait for a man to save her and close the drama of her existence with a kiss and marriage; meanwhile, men are given the sporty, heroic, strapping, young, handsome man whose sole purpose in life is to rule other people and save women who can't help themselves.... of course, its more complicated than this, but i digress)

BUT with the opening of WALL-E this past weekend and all the talk of PIXAR flooding the media, it dawned on me that perhaps one of the reasons this company is so great for children (and adults) today is their offering of animated films that focus our attention on issues perhaps more urgent, more age-appropriate (?), or dare I say, less psyche-damaging than the constant barrage of love stories and fantasies that have historically worked along side romantic comedies for ages, pushing the idea that a woman's troubles are all solved by a man and a marriage.
So, in this brief entry, I just want to say thank you to PIXAR for kicking Disney's ass.

This, of course, is not to say that I love some Little Mermaid from time to time.