I have a weird relationship with Tarsem Singh, the movie director who is usually credited as ‘Tarsem’ because it sounds more chic.
I love him occasionally, I hate him mostly, and I still get excited and hopeful when I find out he’d doing a new movie like this one.
(also, ‘panopticon’ is a cool word)
Tarsem started out in music videos, including the pretty neat one for R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion”, which features lots of people with wings and Michael Stipe looking depressed.
(they seem so surprised when an elderly angel falls into their house; I guess they’ve never read any South American magical realism)
Then he moved on to movies, beginning with The Cell in 2000. It’s a film about a serial killer and the psychiatrist who literally moves into his head to figure out where his next victim is. It’s not a great movie, but it has some interesting visuals, some gorgeous costumes (shut up I’m a girl) and Tarsem shows us what the inside of a horse looks like, which is thoughtful of him. It helps that Vincent D’Onfrio is the bad guy and he’s completely fucking crazy anyway.
All in all, The Cell was a 90-minute Nine Inch Nails video. Not surprising for a music video director, and it showed promise.
The next Tarsem movie I saw was sublime.
The Fall is about just that- literal and figurative falling. A movie actor who’s been paralyzed in a stunt gone wrong befriends a little girl who is healing from her own fall, and spins an epic tale for her to pass the time (and for other, more nefarious purposes).
The Fall is a perfect storm of strong story, great acting and of course fantastic visuals. The scenes set inside the story the actor tells are breathtaking, from elephants swimming to desert vistas, Tarsem’s brain really shines in this film. The Fall is one of a handful of movies that have ever made me cry; a cynical wench doesn’t turn on the waterworks often, but I made an exception for this one. It’s a truly stunning piece of art.
So what the hell happened with Immortals?
Immortals, a Greek mythology story (of some patched-together kind) is awful. Never have I walked out of a movie theater feeling so disheartened. It was dreadful. The story was bland, the actors phoned it in (save Mickey Rourke, who seemed to enjoy the hell out of himself), and even Tarsem’s imaginative visuals…weren’t. The Titans weren’t titanic, the gods’ headgear, instead of looking bizarre and impressive, seemed goofy, and what the hell is that growing on Zeus’ face? A moustache? Are you sure? There’s one nifty flash of heavenly god/Titan war at the end but that’s all it is, a couple seconds of coolness in two hours of terrible.
As we exited the theater, I was listing for my husband all the things I would rather do than watch Immortals ever again (including eating balut and rubbing salt in my scrapes), I blurted, “I would…I would rather sleep with Mickey Rourke than watch that crap again!”
(Nothing against Mickey Rourke- he’s a good actor, but he was all sweaty and dirty in Immortals, so that’s how I picture him in my head, and you just know that guy is a freak in bed. To date, Immortals remains the only movie that is so dreadful that I would rather sleep with a stranger than watch it again)
Apparently Tarsem also directed some kind of Snow White movie or something, but I didn’t watch it because Julia Roberts plays the queen, and I think pretty much anyone is fairer than Julia Roberts, so it rings kind of false to me.
I can’t find a date for Tarsem’s new film, but I expect I’ll see it…don’t disappoint me again Tarsem, or you will find yourself consigned to the Do Not Watch list along with M. Night Shyamalan.