Imaginarium Of Doctor Paranassus

Movie Review by Dr Kuma

Starring: Johnny Depp, Heath Ledger, Jude Law, Colin Farrell, Christopher Plummer
Director: Terry Gilliam

The Story

THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS is a fantastical morality tale, set in the present day. It tells the story of Dr Parnassus and his extraordinary ‘Imaginarium’, a travelling show where members of the audience get an irresistible opportunity to choose between light and joy or darkness and gloom. Blessed with the extraordinary gift of guiding the imaginations of others, Dr Parnassus is cursed with a dark secret. Long ago he made a bet with the devil, Mr Nick, in which he won immortality. Many centuries later, on meeting his one true love, Dr Parnassus made another deal with the devil, trading his immortality for youth, on condition that when his first-born reached its 16th birthday he or she would become the property of Mr Nick. Valentina is now rapidly approaching this ‘coming of age’ milestone and Dr Parnassus is desperate to protect her from her impending fate. Mr Nick arrives to collect but, always keen to make a bet, renegotiates the wager. Now the winner of Valentina will be determined by whoever seduces the first five souls. Enlisting a series of wild, comical and compelling characters in his journey, Dr Parnassus promises his daughter’s hand in marriage to the man that helps him win. In this captivating, explosive and wonderfully imaginative race against time, Dr Parnassus must fight to save his daughter in a never-ending landscape of surreal obstacles – and undo the mistakes of his past once and for all…

The Review

Like all Gilliam’s films Parnassus is full of amazing images which far outweigh its faults (of which there are many – especially the first half an hour – bar the superb opening shot). The film is like a dream in the fact that when you enter the cold light of day once more it doesn’t make much sense as it did at the time but certain images remain in (and haunt) your subconscious. The “dream sequences” are some of the best in the film and the use of the actors is extremely clever. Depp is by far and away the best, Farrell ok and Jude Law being …Jude Law (a gurning male model/robot). Lily Cole is a good model but not a great actress (although she gets better as the film goes on) although her cleavage seems to be the main point of interest (to director and audience), her character coming across like a living sex doll. Verne Troyer is good and Ledger is fine but it’s not a patch on his turns in BATMAN or BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, although how could we realistically try and sum up a half finished project without knowing what he would have brought to the role fully. What struck me apart from how sad it was that such a good actor had left us was that he really did look and act a lot older than his years up on the silver screen, which weren’t simply enough. All in all this is something you’d need to see on a big screen and will no doubt become a cult film in years to come. It’s no BRAZIL (although it’s the closet Gilliam’s come to it) but it’s a huge step in the right direction from the awful TIDELAND. Finishing off a film when an actor dies during production isn’t a first; Bela Lugosi was replaced by his Chiropractor in PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. Sadly he was about a foot taller, much thinner, had different coloured hair and held a cape over his face hoping the audience wouldn’t notice. They did. Gilliam isn’t Ed Wood though and his visions, 40 years to the day that Python started on TV, are still as memorable as the animations in that classic series. With such strong dream like scenes now included due to circumstance, a tragic loss may have brought a creative re-birth.

Dr Kuma’s verdict: 4 out of 6 stars
(mostly for visuals and Christopher Plummer who’s great as Parnassus). The world would be a duller place without Gilliam, especially a place called Hollywood.

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