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The Falls1980

  • 4.3
Standing at a pivotal point in his filmography, poised between his earlier, witty shorts and the unique pleasures of his post-DRAUGHTSMAN'S CONTRACT oeuvre, THE FALLS is arguably the most significant film of Peter Greenaway’s prolific career. Shot as a pseudodocumentary, this magnum opus dazzlingly details ninety-two case histories of people who have been affected by the VUE (Violent Unknown Event), a mysterious, apocalyptic phenomenon related to birds, flying and bizarre invented languages. Perfectly paired with it is VERTICAL FEATURES REMAKE, in which a group of self-important academics argue about the work of Tulse Luper, Greenaway’s best-known fictional character and cinematic alter-ego. Michael Nyman provided the score for both films (with back-up from the father of ambient music, Brian Eno).

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"...a three-and-a-quarter-hour powerhouse display of imaginative dissonance." - Michael Atkinson, Village Voice


4 members like this review

Comparable to a baroque academic exercise in Situationism, or to science fiction for alien bureaucrats. Spins together a report from names, dates, and figures in documents that have been redacted to the point of near unintelligibility. Over the 3+ hours of the film, all the blacked-out parts begin to point to something, but does the pattern mean anything? A little reflection yields suggestive connections: for example, 92 (the number of case studies in the movie) is the atomic number of uranium. But trying to crack the code means “falling” oneself—for an elaborate exercise in mystification. Imagine Chris Marker with a very British sense of humor, or educational programming made by Borges out of a collection of stock footage. Certainly too exasperating for most, but if you like the idea of Monty Python making inside jokes for KGB operatives, you’ll be fully entertained.

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top reviewer

Member Reviews (5)

8dae6774defd1d0f91cc7dd2835ce800?default=https%3a%2f%2fd3uc4wuqnt61m1.cloudfront.net%2fassets%2favatars%2fmale%2favatar m 0083
top reviewer

Comparable to a baroque academic exercise in Situationism, or to science fiction for alien bureaucrats. Spins together a report from names, dates, and figures in documents that have been redacted to the point of near unintelligibility. Over the 3+ hours of the film, all the blacked-out parts begin to point to something, but does the pattern mean anything? A little reflection yields suggestive connections: for example, 92 (the number of case studies in the movie) is the atomic number of uranium. But trying to crack the code means “falling” oneself—for an elaborate exercise in mystification. Imagine Chris Marker with a very British sense of humor, or educational programming made by Borges out of a collection of stock footage. Certainly too exasperating for most, but if you like the idea of Monty Python making inside jokes for KGB operatives, you’ll be fully entertained.

4 members like this review
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top reviewer

Linguistically absurd and ornithologically overwhelming. At 3 hours, 15 minutes, Peter Greenaway's first feature film seems rushed. It should have been at least 15 hours long, or even 45 hours. That would have been more appropriate. I would have also appreciated optional Latin subtitles.

1 member likes this review
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top reviewer

The Violent Unknown Event (V.U.E.) has struck a large number of people causing physical disabilities, immortality and imparting upon them the ability to speak strange new languages. Many people feel that birds are somehow involved. Over the course of this 3 hour "documentary", Greenaway profiles 92 victims of the V.U.E., all of whom have last names beginning with "Fall". Despite it's massive running time and deliberately repetitive nature, I really loved this. I can't say that I watched all 3 hours with intense concentration, but the effect of this is kind of similar to Michael Nyman's minimalist score. Patterns emerge that create a sort of meta entertainment value.

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top reviewer

Just three stars because I haven't finished it yet. It's kind of like a Monty Python sketch written by Borges. Enjoyed the obsession with birds and the human anatomy and silly languages. But I still have two hours to go so we'll see how long my own obsession lasts.

Flawless.