Dir: Tarsem. 2006. India/UK/US. 117mins.
Surely the most visuallyawe-inspiring film at the Toronto film festival this year, music video directorTarsem's The Fall will divide mostaudiences. Patient viewers, however, will be richly rewarded by a visual andaural extravanganza that is virtually sui generis. Think the brilliant andexciting images of Julie Taymor in her pre-commercial phase, along with thewhimsical (but less self-indulgent) narrative complexity of Michel Gondry, andyou have some idea of what the film is like.

While thisexpensive-looking, sometimes frustrating masterpiece will only interest themost fearless of distributors, the film should do exceptionally well inancillary niche markets, and, with luck, may even go on to become a cultclassic for the ages. Festival programmers, and especially art museumprogrammers, looking for something to stir things up a bit, should give thisone serious consideration.

There's no doubtthat Tarsem, who first gained notice as the director of the award-winning REMmusic video Losing My Religion and has gone on to make striking commercials forSmirnoff, Coke, Nike, and Pepsi as well as the feature The Cell, is an aesthetic genius. The problem is whether or notaudiences can be persuaded to stick with the ever-shifting, surrealistnarrative, as well as a visual and aural sumptuousness that may quicklysatiate.

On one level, thestory is very simple. In a Los Angeles hospital in the early part of the lastcentury, a little girl named Alexandria (Untaru) has broken her arm and afellow patient, a stuntman named Roy (Pace), entertains her with exotic fairytalesfeaturing five heroes from around the world who are united in their desire toavenge the wrongs done by a powerful nobleman. As circumstances in the hospitaland in Roy's life change, so too does the fantastical story he tells her as charactersfrom the hospital start to appear in it.

Only repeatedviewings will reveal the many intricate connections between the two stories,but the images (both in the fairytale and in the present-day tale) are sostunning and feel so right that many viewers will be inclined to give Tarsemthe benefit of the doubt and simply go with the magnificent flow.

Walkouts - andthere will be many - are likely during the film's first half as it verydeliberately builds its moral, thematic and narrative complexities, but thosewho get this far will be hooked and will be rewarded by a powerfully sweepingclimax and ending.

The fresh-facedbut troubled character of Roy will also help to keep viewers motivated, but thehuman star of this show is the adorable Alexandria whose cuteness and vulnerabilitynever become cloying. The film was shot on real locations, in some 23 differentcountries, and the visual and physical choreography is simply breathtaking.

It won't beeveryone's cup of tea, but for those ready to experience somethingsimultaneously so demanding and so rewarding, it will be a revelation.

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Executive producers
Ajit Singh
Tommy Turtle


Dan Gilroy
Nicoi Soultanakis

Dan Hubbard

Production designer
Ged Clarke

Krishna Levy

Lee Pace
Catinca Untaru