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Oct26

Written by:graham.hughes
10/26/2009 9:26 PM 


Terry Gilliam seems to have been having a little bit of bad luck with his films recently.  After various poorly received films (I will save my vitriol about evil film critics later) and his disastrous attempts to make ‘Don Quixote’ I truly started to wonder if he was subject to some sort of filmmaker’s curse.  This time the tragedy that befell Gilliam’s latest production was the untimely death of the leading actor, Heath Ledger.

As it happens life imitates art in this case.  The film swiftly introduces us to Dr Parnassus’ (Christopher Plumber) travelling show when the showmen come across Tony’s (Ledger) suspended body under Blackfriars Bridge.  We have already learnt that there is something decidedly supernatural about Parnassus’ Imaginarium.  Having been rescued and despite suffering from shock and apparent amnesia Tony signs up and joins the travelling show.  The fact that Parnassus’ daughter Valentina (Lily Cole) is amongst the crew is obviously a contributing factor to Tony’s keenness.  However, fellow showman Anton is another rival for Valentina’s attentions and the story then leads us to realise Tony’s secret past as well as Doctor Parnassus’ pact with Old Nick (Tom Waits).

The most outstanding feature of this film is the visual imagery.  Dramatic transitions shift the viewer from dark and gloomy shots of London to the fantasy world of the Imaginarium.  It is in the ‘Imaginarium’ especially that we see that computer graphics technology seems to have caught up with Gilliam’s imagination.  If you visualise a typical Monty Python animation executed in beautifully rendered graphics then you will not be far off some of the more striking images within this film.

In terms of narrative the story itself is intriguing but the film lost a little pace in one or two places.  Credit must be given to the deft work to rescue the film from the problem of a deceased lead actor.  Incorporating appearances from other stars, Depp, Law, and Farrell adds extra depth to the film.  I did wonder whether Ledger had been hanging around the wrong bars in London when trying to learn his English accent, assuming this was the aim, as he sounded distinctly Australian at times.  Mate!

Overall I was engrossed and enjoyed this film.  I would definitely see it again, preferably at the cinema; I suspect the impact of the film would be seriously reduced on the small screen. **** (out of 5)
 

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