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The Fall

Year: 2006
Production Co: Googly Films
Director: Tarsem Singh
Producer: Tarsem Singh
Writer: Tarsem Singh
Cast: Lee Pace, Catinca Untaru

As films like Hero and House of Flying Daggers proved, visually stunning doesn't always equal great movie. You can usually tell movies by visual stylists like photographers or production designers (Tom Ford's A Single Man was the exception) because they're like models on the catwalk - every visceral detail surgically in place, but myopic behind the eyes and empty inside.

Tarsem Singh's calling card to a Hollywood career (as I write this, he's attached to Immortals, a Clash of the Titans -like action movie about war between gods and men) could have gone the same way. Scenes shot in the Indian desert are measured but arresting riots of form and colour.

But two things save the film from being little more than a moving expressionist painting. The first is that the story is interesting. An injured movie stuntman comes to convalesce at a 1920s hospital where he befriends a little girl nursing a broken arm. The two become friends and he starts to tell her an ongoing tale of heroes, villains, romance and revenge that we see unfolding as he tells it.

As he becomes increasingly dependent on painkillers, his mind starts to fracture and before long he isn't sure what's the story and what's real life. If you're quick enough, you'll see parallels between the two.

The second is then-nine year old Romanian Catinca Untaru as Alexandria, with more charisma, presence and heart than a room full of Shakespearian thespians. Watching the plucky, precocious girl make mischief around the hospital and visit her new friend is a pleasure to watch.

All the money shots are in the story within a story, but I actually found the friendship between the two heroes in the real world more touching and gripping.

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