Monday, November 2, 2009

John Krueger's THE FALL makes theatrical debut, after some minor festival play


"You're my innocence," our hero Tony (played by Benjamin Ciaramello, shown left in the second photo down) tells his facially-challenged love Mery Beth (Erica Curtis, below right in the same photo) early on in THE FALL, a film written and directed by John Krueger (shown in black-and-
white, below). This slightly arty and a tad pretentious line is said with such sincerity

that it raises a red flag almost immediately. But being viewers of great good will -- as we all are, right? -- we let it go and persevere.

As it turns out, Tony -- bless him -- is going to need all the "innocence" he can muster. Within the first five -- OK, six -- minutes of the movie,

we're treated to everything from cheating at bingo to robbery and murder by skinhead...

and then onwards to what looks suspiciously like anal sex...

...pornography and politics -- followed by some dirty (rather literally) OCD sex...

because Tony's brother, Frank (Scott Kinworthy, shown in the mirror above), a judge who would be governor, needs a little "dirt" to get his gonads in gear. Did I mention the expected naughtiness from the clergy? You got it! You got flashbacks, too, handled, of course, in a different color palette so that we can quickly distinguish the shift in time (see below).

Now, all this would quickly sink any serious movie, which The Fall certainly means to be. Yet by some quirky magic (perhaps a combination of the moviemaker's odd innocence and the viewer's jaded sensibility), what you actually get is one of cinema's most treasured and least-often seen treats: unintentional "camp."

I'm not talking about the kind of unintentional camp that results in a shriekingly funny, laugh-out-loud marathon. You'd have to view Murder in Portland to find something that amazing (and you can -- on Netflix or GreenCine). Nor am I referring to the kind of obvious and expected "camp" provided by the films of Charles Busch. The Fall offers a much quieter experience that creeps up on you, with screenplay and dialog often so literal that you begin to chuckle. What makes this movie so unintentionally funny is its near-perfect melding of ever-so-slightly overdone acting and writing, which seems all the more humorous for its involuntary nature.

With a plot that takes in so much so soon, and actors all trying their level best to make it believable, it's almost inevitable that camp ensues. The inclusion into the cast of a scenery-chewing William Devane (above), as a blind judge (justice is blind, get it?) just adds to the fun, and scenes such as those that take place in jail allow the actors to rage, rant and handily show their dramatic chops -- particularly a fellow named Peter Cilella (below), as the weirdly-closeted gay man who's murdered both his parents and thus gets the cream of the over-the-top moments.

Having set up such a juicy framework full of sleaze, the movie then shifts to some sweetness and light, with a "make-over" scene in which the villainess instructs the sweetie-pie how to eradicate her enormous facial birthmark/blemish via the simple application of make-up (yeah, right), while the two engage in conversation about religion and morality that's as deep as the movie manages to get. Soon after comes the weirdest homage to Douglas Fairbanks that you are ever likely to see.

The movie's big secret -- the one on which most of the plot machinations hang -- is obvious early on, and once the viewer has figured it out, The Fall begins to drag, alerting you to what it plans to do -- but taking ages to get it done. Which is a shame because, were the movie able to hold fast to that fun quotient, we might have had a classic on our hands. Even as it is, I wouldn't have missed The Fall. As the finale approaches and the would-be governor pleads, "I don't want to be filthy anymore!", you'll want to give him a shout-out: "Then you're in the wrong movie, honey!"

The Fall opened theatrically over this past weekend -- in timely fashion, as the film even includes Halloween scenes (above and below) -- in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Sunset Five and Monica 4-plex. A DVD release cannot be far behind, and I foresee numerous parties organized around the showing of the film to appreciative audiences of a certain stripe in living rooms (and bedrooms) across the nation. By the way, you can also see those first lascivious seven minutes of the film on CHUD - and enter a special sweepstakes, to boot. Uh... what are you waiting for?
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2 comments:

Javier said...

This movie was excellent. A non-hollywood art film. Check it out. It will be a cult hit.

James van Maanen, said...

I can agree with the possible "cult hit" status, Javier. But an "art film"? Maybe not.