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  • Writer's pictureBen Kemper

Double Feature: De-Lovely and The Fall

Or: “One minute you love them. The next, you want to kill them a thousand times over.”

The above quotation (liberally tweaked from The Masked Bandit) neatly sums up my turbulent thoughts about the historical epics De-Lovely and The Fall. I love them for their grand visions, their time riding on wit and straining against absolute sorrow, their highly talented leading actors. I loath them for their habit of sacrificing the forward motion story for said grand vision, and both films penchant for luxuriating in pain and discomfort. However, as its always the better option to illuminate good then point out failing, I’ll leave the, remarkably similar, faults of the two films aside.


On the last evening of his life Cole Porter (Kevin Kline), one of Broadway’s greatest composers, is visited by a mysterious guest (Jonathan Price) who escorts him to an etherial Theater where his life will come under review. His life is, naturally, a musical featuring many of his finest works, and is centered around his relationship with his wife Linda (Ashley Judd). Their’s is a most peculiar love story for while each party was fascinated by and delighted in the other, Porter was gay and conducted numerous affairs during their marriage, which put a certain strain on things.

Though sometimes they can be used heavy handedly, the show stopping numbers that pop up throughout the film, being Cole Porter classics, send toes to tapping and tease smiles from the viewers lips. Yet no matter how splashy they are the film fully blossoms for the scenes between Judd and Kline. I could not think of a better choice for Porter as Kline swings him in-between ghosts of Jeffery Anderson of Soapdish and William Hundon of the Emperors Club, shimmering wit one second and wondrous heavy the other, a teeter-totter riding up from gentle flippancy to repressed frustration and back again. Judd’s performance begins as somewhat affected and wooden, but lets herself become more and more human as time passes and trouble presses down on her.

Despite its dragging pace, in places, and its habit of under developing some critical chapters in the relationship, De-lovely is a sweet, romance for soft autumn nights when the body feels the approach of Winters cold and takes refuge in sentimentality.

The Fall

Once upon a time, in a californian hospital a young Romanian girl named Alexandria (Catinca Untaru) recuperating from a broken arm, befriends Roy (Lee Pace), a hollywood stunt man suffering from paralysis in both legs and a broken heart. Roy tells the Alexandria a story of a band of heroes led by the mysterious Masked Bandit who travel across the world to destroy the evil Governor Odious, who has killed what each loves most. Alexandria populates the fantastic tale with characters and events from her day to day encounters at the Hospital. However, Roy has his own designs about where the story is going.

The Fall is perhaps best described as the illegitimate child of The Princess Bride and Pan’s Labyrinth. Fairytales and Swashbucklers made and adapted by Children that go horribly, horribly wrong. It certainly is one of the most extraordinary films I’ve ever seen. The child of Phantasmagorically fascinated director Tarsam Singh, the Fall took four years to shoot, and featured on location shots at some of the most unbelievably beautiful places on the whole planet. The story of the interactions between Pace and Untaru would make a great film in and of themselves: five year old Untaru’s lines were mainly improvised (and done very well) and she was convinced, as was most of the crew, that Pace was in fact a paraplegic.

As authentic as Untaru’s performance is, it is Pace who really captured my attention and respect in the film. As Roy descends deeper and deeper into depression so does Pace’s storytellers charm of constantly re-tailoring his story for his audience, dissolves before our very eyes into a self-loathing shaking creature of rage and disappointment who sears his torment on his characters and his young friend. Like King Lear, Roy rakes us and his fellow characters across the coals of absolute suffering, again and again and again. And we feel sorry for him. Scunner.

The Fall is manipulation at its finest, clothed in sumptuous robes and drenched by the waters of tragedy. It ought to be seen if only to honor the great lengths Singh went to shoot it and the cinematic sorcery he works. It’s literally breathtaking in its visual poetry, and the story within the story has great splashes of swashbuckling delight, but the film will induce high levels of discomfort and anger within the viewer. Watch at your own risk.

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