The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus Reviews
Enthralling loyal fans and baffling novices, Director Terry Gilliam's distinctive flair for good vs. evil existential fantasies is once again brought to the viewer. A visual feast of colour daring to beg the questions of the universe, Gilliam's unique and increasingly unhinged cinematic flights of fancy range from on-screen genius to the practically unwatchable.
Marred with issues, this wondrous, dark and opulent film was to be the troubled director's triumphant comeback. However, his imaginative brilliance is tempered by moments of incoherence and strange disillusionment.
Essentially hindering the project, Gilliam is faced with more than his fair share of directorial issues, but nothing compared to his greatest trial, the loss of leading man Heath Ledger. Lovingly accredited to "Heath Ledger and Friends", The Imaginarium suffered-not from his absence, blossoming under the tender care of his all--star friend stand-ins Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell.
Subsequently rewritten to seamlessly accommodate the characters physical transformations, the miraculously elaborate and surreal dream-logic works better than it has any right too. Adding whimsy to the story's mixed concepts of fantasy and reality, the shared character remains completely coherent although underdeveloped.
In the present day, 1000 year old monk-turned-showman Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) leads a travelling theatre troupe about the streets of London in a horse-drawn demountable stage contraption.
The rickety medieval pantomime style show consists of sleight -of-hand expert Anton (Andrew Garfield), dwarf Percy (Verne Troyer), Parnassus' almost of age daughter Valentina (Lily Cole) and of course Parnassus himself.
Parnassus, when in a meditative state, controls the central focus of the show, a magical mirror through which audience members enter a surreal world projected by their own innermost desires and personal mental landscapes.
In a centuries-spanning duel, it seems the good Doctor made a pact with the devil. In exchange for his immortality, he agreed his daughter (who had not even been thought of when the pact originated) should become the property of the devil on her 16th birthday. The day now approaching the devil; in the spiffy pencil-moustached form of Mr Nick (Tom Waits) has come to claim his prise.
A betting man in nature, the desperate doctor strikes a new wager; the first to win five new souls of those whom enter the enchanting portal's realm will keep Valentina. Already believed beaten, the Doctor resides to the fact that his daughter will soon be gone.
Enter Tony (Heath Ledger). Found hanging-by-his-neck from a bridge in the dead of night after a botched assassination attempt, the mysterious and amnesiac outsider has a gift.
Hopping aboard the ramshackle imaginarium, Tony offers ideas for improvement and instantly begins enticing and charming punters as a snake-tongued spruiker, leading them into the mirror and swaying their dreams.
However, as the supernatural mirror picks up the fantasies of all of its visitors and it quickly becomes apparent this shape-shifting trickster is not the innocent Mr. Nice Guy he seems and the Doctors battle might be lost before it's truly begun.
Gilliam remains a fascinating filmmaker, a storyteller with the ability to amaze. A spectacle, worth the price of admission alone, he melds together the streamlined modern London urban-scapes with the old-time production design of the Parnassus carriage and the CGI wonderlands beyond the mirror.
Johnny Depp, who portrays Tony in his first visit into the imaginarium, is simply wonderful. Tapping into his well versed repertoire of character acting, this is hands down the best scene of the film. Successfully seducing excited lady-shoppers in a Louis Vuitton paradise of oversized shoes and handbags, who could resist?
Depp's hypnotising and sexually alluring sequence pauses momentarily delving into a speech obviously added later as a tribute to Ledger. Dwelling on forever-young celebrities such as James Dean and Princess Diana, Depp convinces his lady friend that the public hold eternal reverence to the memories of those who pass early, like "gods".
Law's and Farrell's respective entrance into the imaginarium lacks the same eccentric flair and poignancy, giving the impression that it was time for things to wrap, even if anticlimactic.
The Verdict: Ledgers final performance will inevitably be scrutinised, discussed, picked over and dismissed as not his finest work. Sadly this is true. Not to be taken as his legacy, The Imaginarium does feel as though it was made from his first takes and is simply not at the same level as his Oscar winning performance as The Joker in Dark Knight.
Nonetheless, this moving tribute is a compelling feat completed by men, of who held their colleague in great esteem and very clearly cared.
Published : The Queanbeyan Age
Date of Publication : 06.11.2009
Doctor Parnassus is an immortal man that travels around London with his daughter Valentina, his assistant Percy, and his worker Anton. They travel to provide a gipsy show that promises a life changing experience, but unfortunately almost no one is interested. One day, the come along an stranger named Tony, who may change their fortune.
When it comes to Terry Gilliam, you either love his imaginative and unconventional style or you hate it, and I personally I admire it (I love "Brazil", "12 Monkeys", and "Time Bandits"), but having said that I will admit that "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" is filled with imperfections. "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" counts with Gilliamīs trademark irreverent directing, the visuals are striking and full of originality (sure, they look cheap but that's the point of the Imaginarium itself), a lot of interesting ideas are executed marvelously, the acting is solid, the comedy works, the main trio of characters are interesting, Law-Depp-Farrell are a perfect representation of Ledger and the message of the history is inspiring (it is obvious that this is Gilliamīs most autobiographical film to date). With that being said this film is a mess, which is not surprising from Gilliam but what truly is shocking is the lack of organization that most of his previous films have. "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" counts with two unlikeable characters that hurt the experience every time they are in frame, the concept is underutilized, while the Law and Depp sections feel connected, the Farrell section drastically changes the tone and it is the one section that feels it was added due to the death of Ledger, the use of the Imaginarium is inconsistent, at first it was all about the buildup of what's across the mirror, but the last portion of the film is just about throwing random stuff at the audience; and the story is extremely inconsistent. Sure, Terry Gilliam movies are about ideas and creativity, thus the plot is just the excuse that gets characters to one point to another, but with this film it seemed that Gilliam wanted to tell the story of Faust combined with some autobiographical elements but then Heath Ledgerīs character completely changes the story from a simple tale of a man and the Devil to the a romantic triangle.
"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" is a frustrating film as it has some greatness but its inconsistent storytelling and script are what breaks the whole experience. While it has its moments, this film lacks the magic that made other Gilliam films the beloved films they are. Fun but forgettable.
Lacking in character depth, but it makes up for that in beautiful visuals and a captivating story.