By our man with the DVD player and no social life, Philip Reeve.
It's always depressing when film critics complain that a movie is all style over substance, as they did with Avatar at the end of last year - stunning visually, of course, but oh, my dears, the story... I think it's worth remembering that the movies started out as fairground attractions: visual roller-coaster rides which appealed straight to the subconscious. It was only later that they began to be considered as art and expected to tell complex and original stories too. And while complex and original stories are all well and good, I'm still happy to settle down and watch pure spectacle sometimes. The problem is, it's rare these days to find pure spectacle that doesn't look like the rough draft for a computer game and hasn't been done a thousand times before.
So how wonderful to find a film that looks both utterly beautiful and not quite like anything else I've ever seen. Like all the films I really like it's basically barking mad, and it tells a pretty engaging story into the bargain.
I don't get to the cinema much these days, and have little idea what films are around, but the fact that I'd never heard of The Fall (2006) suggests to me that it didn't do particularly well on its release (apologies if I'm wrong and this the umpteenth review of it you've read). It was directed by 'Tarsem' whom a quick Wikipedia search reveals to be Tarsem Singh, a director of commercials and pop videos, who funded much of this extraordinary epic from his own pocket - a pocket which must be extraordinarily deep, since this is one of the most spectacular films I've seen in a long while (and as far as I could tell it was all real, not CGI).
A couple of times I thought I detected a reference to Zhang Yimou's Hero (World Heritage Sites + cast of thousands = wowness). Otherwise, it's hard to say what other films The Fall could be likened to. It's a bit like a not-crap version of Terry Gilliam's Baron Munchausen with much better photography and none of the weak sub-Python comedy turns. It's a bit like something Peter Greenaway might have made if his target demographic went to the Odeon instead of the ICA. But I suspect US movie-maven Roger Ebert had it about right when he wrote, "You might want to see it for no other reason than that it exists. There will never be another like it."