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 Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus!! :D

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Donald McKinney
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PostSubject: Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus!! :D   Fri Oct 16, 2009 8:33 pm

On January 22nd 2008, the so-called Terry Gilliam curse struck again. The same curse that shut The Man Who Killed Don Quixote down 6 days into filming in September 2000, the same curse that got him into trouble when The Adventures of Baron Munchausen went horrendously over-budget, and the same curse that's prevented him from getting the films he wants to make made over the past 20 years. Whether it's sheer bad luck or someone is truly out to get him is debatable, but on this occaision, it was the worst thing that had happened to him so far. Gilliam had been filming his latest film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus for about 7 weeks since early December 2007, and despite cold weather and long night shoots, filming in London had been relatively trouble free, and they were on schedule despite a tight budget. With the London shoot complete, the crew departed to Vancouver for the studio shoot, Heath Ledger would follow them a few days later after a few days break in New York, he never got to Vancouver. He died after an accidental overdose of prescription medication. Terry Gilliam was emotionally shattered by the news, and he wanted to shut the film down, feeling it would be impossible to carry on. But, the crew led by Terry's daughter Amy, who was producing the film, and cinematographer Nicola Pecorini said the film HAD to be completed for Heath, as that's what Heath would have wanted, he would have wanted to see the film completed. Gilliam had one chance to save the film, he called upon a little help from his and Heath's friends to help out to save what would be Heath's final performance. And it worked, by God, it took Gilliam over a year to complete the film, but he made it work. It could have been a disaster, but it isn't, he made it a film to remember. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus may be Heath Ledger's final film, but there's alot more to it than that. It's a mad, psychedelic ensemble piece about Faustian deals, out-of-time storytellers and the power of redemption. It's also one of Terry Gilliam's very best films, his best in well over a decade!! Very Happy

Set in modern day London, it has Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) travelling with a group of rag-tag performers with a horse drawn gypsy caravan which folds out to become a stage. The performers put on little Victorian style performances all around London. They include stowaway Anton (Andrew Garfield), Parnassus's loyal dwarf Percy (Verne Troyer) and Parnassus' daughter Valentina (Lily Cole). Turns out Parnassus was once a monk 1,000 years ago, who made a deal with Mr. Nick (Tom Waits), the devil, regarding immortality. A centrepiece of the show is a mirror where people can enter into the mind of Parnassus, and they can bring out their own imaginations too. One rainy night, they come across Tony (Ledger), hanging under a bridge, they save his life, and he can't remember who he is, (he's a disgraced director of a children's charity). Tony joins their team, but there's trouble, Valentina is a few days shy of 16, once she turns 16, she belongs to Mr. Nick. But, Mr. Nick offers Parnassus another wager, the first to claim 5 souls. If Parnassus wins, he keeps Valentina, if Mr. Nick wins, he claims her. Can Tony's showmanship convince punters into the world of the Imaginarium, or will Mr. Nick win??

Gilliam was lucky to find money for this, but a Faustian plot is always universably identifiable. The film is built on Parnassus making pacts and deals with Mr. Nick. But, what goes on within the Imaginarium is an exhilarating and at times jaw-dropping glimpse into what we've been missing with Terry Gilliam, we would have seen alot more of stuff like this had he not had to compromise all the time with Hollywood studios. Gilliam designed much of the concepts which go on within the Imaginarium as well as working on the art direction, plus he produced it. So, he's been busy with this one in all other departments. But, every aspect of the films production is exquisite, from the other-worldly cinematography by Gilliam's cherished DP Nicola Pecorini, who has always brought out the best of Gilliam's visions whenever they work together. The costumes by Monique Prudhomme are almost Victorian in style but are at the same time other worldly. The score by Mychael Danna and Jeff Danna is fantastical and atmospheric The imagery and worlds inside the Imaginarium were mainly based on unused ideas that Gilliam had wanted to used for alot of his previous films, including Ladder World, (which looks like something from one of Gilliam's animations), was once intended for Brazil, but budget restraints put the kibosh on that. Plus the cardboard trees were taken from Gilliam as yet unrealised The Defective Detective. But, it makes good use of it's locations in London, from St. Paul's Cathedral, Battersea Power Station, Tower Bridge, as well as a suburban Homebase, where the travelling show put on a performance in the car park!! Razz

Cast-wise, as stated, it's an all-star ensemble piece, even though people will remember it for being Heath Ledger's final work, the real star of the film is Christopher Plummer's Doctor Parnassus, once a monk, but now a man stuck out of time and out of place. Plummer has always been a reliable actor, and is always able to turn in a good performance, and Gilliam gets the best out of him with this film. The real standouts are Andrew Garfield as aspiring actor Anton and Lily Cole as Parnassus' 15-going-on-16 year old daughter Valentina. They both show so much range within their roles here, that you can expect greater things to come from both of them, Garfield is reminiscent of a young Malcolm McDowell, and Cole is a revelation, going from sweet and innocent beauty to feisty, firey heroine. Heath is wonderful in what was completed of his part as Tony, which is similiar in a way to what he did with Gilliam on The Brothers Grimm, (a hugely underrated film), a smooth operator, with a shady past, savvy by nature, even if his accent goes from Cockney to Alan Partridge alot, (like it did in The Brothers Grimm). Once he goes into the Imaginarium, his appearences and personalities change. Johnny Depp is first with his memorable turn, Jude Law goes into Ladder World, with an amusing musical sequence involving policemen and Russian Gangsters, and Colin Farrell has a nice extended cameo too where we see Tony's dreams coming true. Tom Waits has great fun as Mr. Nick, a role he was arguably born to play, a trickster who is able to trick hapless victims into making deals. Oh, and Verne Troyer is a joy as Percy!! Very Happy



It's a brilliant ensemble, both from the cast, and even the crew who bring out the best in Terry Gilliam's unique vision. You have to admire Gilliam for getting the film completed despite such unfair and tragic odds. But, Gilliam and his team wanted to honour their friend, and Heath would be proud of this film. They've all done him proud. The credits list this film as 'A Film from Heath Ledger and Friends', how true indeed. Gilliam believed that Heath's spirit was channelling into Depp, Law and Farrell when they came to film their sequences. It's worked, and it's a wonderful triumph. It's well made and it deserves to be seen by everyone!! Very Happy As Doctor Parnassus tells Mr. Nick in the film, "You can't stop stories being told". How true indeed, and Gilliam puts the best stories up on screen, no-one has an imagination as pure and original as he does. Some of the stuff you see within the Imaginarium are nothing like we've seen from Gilliam, this is what we've been missing from him. Heath would be very proud that the film was completed, it's a fitting epitaph to a short but perfect acting career. Thank you Heath, and thank YOU Terry for making Heath's last performance so vivid and memorable. Now, get Don Quixote made, once and for all!! Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus!! :D   Wed Apr 27, 2011 1:34 am

I've just watched it again, it gets better everytime I see it!! Very Happy
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