Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Amazing Sites, No Computers

Roger Ebert reminds us just how nice it is to have him back with his interview with director Tarsem on his latest film, "The Fall."

Reading the interview, it becomes apparent that Tarsem accomplished a feat simply by willing the film into existence. The Indian director ("The Cell") made his career directing commercials and music videos, making a lot of money while living under modest means until one day, he decided to spend his millions on something he cared about.

The agencies that made commercials, he said, "gave me very good money and I didn't complain about it. I put it aside like a little squirrel and at the end I ended up with a project that I wanted to do very badly and threw it all away, so now I’m penniless but as happy as a pig in poo. I told my brother, sell everything, I’m going on this magical mystery tour. When I finish it, I’ll let you know. I called him when it was almost done. He said the house was almost up for sale. But I was finished."

He has a quick smile and makes his struggle sound like a lark.

The film combines a touching relationship between a suicidal, paralyzed Hollywood stuntman (Lee Pace) and a young immigrant girl (Catinca Untaru) and the surreal fantasy he tells her from his bedside. Tarsem accurately portrays the fantasy as the young girl sees it in her mind. The storyline resembles a dream in its extremely simplistic yet murky execution. Excursions and sideshows distract from the main plot, which would cause the film to unravel if the plot in reality weren't actually the one that mattered.

"If you think it’s hard raising money for a film, try telling people that the script is going to be written by a 4-year old. It’s going to be dictated to me by a child. For seven years wherever I would shoot a commercial I would send people out with a camera to schools, and one day I got a tape of this girl at a school in Romania, in the middle of students talking. I was amazed. She was perfect. She didn't speak English. The penny dropped. She was six, but if she didn’t speak the language she would be using, the misunderstanding would buy me the two years that I needed. Because she had to seem four.

Tarsem also reveals the secret behind his striking visuals: location scouting. The locations all exist in reality, although in some cases the director helped bend the reality to his will.

"Jodhpur, the blue city, is a Brahmin city where you’re only supposed to paint your house blue. I made a contract with the city; we would give them free paint. We knew legally they could only choose blue. So they painted their houses blue and it looked more vibrant than it ever had before."

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