The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a Brilliant Film
I've admired Gilliam for a long, long time. Growing up watching Monty Python it was only a matter of time before I moved on to his films. I practically watched Time Bandits every weekend as I remember it being on TV all the time. Now if there's a movie that can scar you as a child, it's one about time jumping midgets. Let me tell you that I seldom ever wanted my parents to make any toast after that film.
But when I say that every Gilliam film is really great and totally worth your time, it's because I mean it. Even people who don't like Gilliam can admit that his films have the best peasants ever. Above all, he really is a master of creating environments. Every single one of his films is chalked full of wonder and the setting and visuals will accompany them. From the dystopian futures of Brazil and 12 Monkeys to the fairy tale atmosphere of Time Bandits and Baron Muchausen, it is always an immersible, unique, and above all believable environment that the audience is brought into no matter how absurd it seems.
Brazil, Time Bandits, and Fear and Loathing are some of his stronger works to me. Brazil takes the idea of a this dystopian future but incorporates ridiculous aspects of modern society into it such as hyperbolic bureaucracy and cosmetic surgery. Few films have made me ever feel so rapped and claustrophobic. The city landscape created feels dark, tall, methodical, and inescapable. The minimal florescent or neon lights give a strong sense of a cold world.
Then Fear and Loathing, based on Hunter S. Thompson's book about his adventures as a Journalist in Vegas covering a motorcycle race... This Book/Director pairing was perfect. The film itself carries the atmosphere of being in Vegas. The smell of the sweat seeping into neon pink shag carpeting, blanketed with cigarette smoke comes through the monitor. The mix of Terry Gilliam visuals as well as Hunter S. Thompson's drug induced trips bring out these horrible acid flash backs that will cause even the most straight edge to feel like they've just had an hour long acid trip.
Then you have Depp's portrayal of Thompson being one of the best roles of his career. There are people who treat Fear and Loathing as a funny drug film, similar to Cheech and Chong or Half Baked and completely miss the point. It's not about how drugs are funny and you see reptiles. It's about how drugs completely ruined the revolution of the late 60's. Depp and Del Toro are pathetic sad characters who are still trying to ride that crazy wave in the most surreal city in the country. You're not supposed to watch them and think, "Haha, they're totally tripping out, that would be fun." The point is that people like Depp wanted fun and consciousness and understanding, with drugs, but instead fucked themselves up and are still trying to regain that illusion of a great wave of change. Depp's delivery of the "High Water Mark" monologue is heart breaking and all this poetic monologue is only helped with the Terry Gilliam signature.
Depp is back in Terry's latest film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Sadly it was because of situations that aren't the best.. and in fact, are just more reasons to add to the list of what has become a sort of curse for Gilliam. I don't even have to get into the most obvious note of his latest film, as it was the last film that Heath Ledger was working on when he died. The way Terry Gilliam got around the fact that he couldn't 'Weekend at Bernie's' the body into his film. Depp takes on the role as well as Jude Law and Colin Farrell... Yeah, Even Colin Farrell. I know, what the fuck, right? I can't see or even think about Colin Farrell without remembering how completely disgusting he was in that horrible remake of Miami Vice.
And after letting it sit for a couple of hours, what can I say about this film that isn't praise. It's a film that goes after my heart and much like it did with my attention, it never let go. What more can you ask for in a film... namely a Terry Gilliam film. This film had it all. A sharp critique of the modern western society by implicitly linking its lack of interest/faith in broad cultural narratives with its decline. Tom Waits "devil" character does this perfectly. Then you have the atheistic critique of blind faith in a very accessible and tastefully revolutionary manner as seen both by Old Nick proving that the world is not kept running by the monks' superstitious story telling and Tony's much prized tool for salvation when he needed it the most.
Lily Cole's cleavage was nothing to scoff at. It reminds me of those strange and foreign feelings I had as a child watching Baron munchausen.... What can I say, I like red hair. Maybe it's cause it's something "rare" or maybe we all hate gingers and I'm just fetishizing the enemy all the time. I mean, the Irish people became certified 100% white a long time ago.... But now I'm rambling so back to the topic... as much as I was scared by midgets, Verne Troyer is great in his role in this and erases the over use of mini-me that I have tried to block out of my mind since Austin Powers. It needs to be mentioned again, Tom Waits as the Devil just was amazing on all levels.. Then again, Tom Waits rocks in every film -especially Mystery Men.
All around the acting in Dr. Parnassus was quite strong. Many people will see this simply to see how the Joker really died. I suppose that will increase Terry Gilliam's viewership by double which is a good thing. Poor guy. I remember watching Lost in La Mancha at the New Beverly and while it was fairly busy of a night since it was a double feature with Adventures of Baron Munchausen, it was still fairly small crowd even for an Art crowd.
Funny enough, the man who killed don quixote is set to finally get finished come 2010 with a 2011 release date.. I'll believe it when I have my ticket to opening night, but if Lost In La Mancha is any indication on how much of a nightmare that film was to make, not even Johnny Depp's freed up production schedule will make Terry Gilliam's job any less of a Mission: Impossible.
Then again, if he can deal with one actor dying in the middle of his production and still finish it with little to small amounts of the story being a bit scattered because of the character's death, I suppose Gilliam has shown that he can face the vast void of shit hands being dealt and come out winning against the house. Talk about rolling with it. And by it I mean death of an actor.
Whenever I bring up the subject of Gilliam, most people, that is if they have even seen a Gilliam film, will complain that he almost never has a satisfying ending to his movies. He always ends on an anticlimactic or dismal note like he's playing a prank on the audience. For this very reason I love his films. I mean, really. He's a genius. Who else could make a movie about time traveling midgets?
I guess I'm just waiting for Terry Gilliam films to get popular enough to warrant the porn industry to make parodies of his films. I can't wait for "the whorarium of doctor pornassus: let your imagination cum alive" Till then, you may want to check out this film in theaters as it really is something special.
Oh yeah.. did I mention Lily Cole?