The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus</strong> (2009)

(In theaters, December 2009) A film by Terry Gilliam is usually quite unlike anything else, and so it is that The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is, at the very least, unique in its own way.  The title is probably the most normal aspect of a film that allows the writer/director to fully indulge in his obsessions, from skewed images to wide-angles to midgets to stylized animation.  The story may be about choices and imagination, but the result is pure visual spectacle for fans of special effects, imaginative dream worlds and cinematic fantasy.  There are more than a few visual and thematic links to previous Gilliam films from The Fisher King to The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. This being said, there are a few strong performances to admire as well: Much has been made of Heath Ledger’s final role and the way other actors (Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell) are used to complete his scenes set in imaginary worlds, but the result feels both appropriate and seamless.  Also worthwhile are Verne Troyer (given surprisingly level-headed dialogue), Tom Waits (as, appropriately, the Devil), Lily Cole (an unconventional beauty balancing out the rest of the male-dominated cast) and Christopher Plummer as the titular doctor.  Alas, the story is a bit more muddled: As with his latest Brothers Grimm, Gilliam delivers fantasy that seems to make it up as it goes along, never setting out rules or sticking to them: it makes the experience of seeing the film a bit tortuous if viewers are trying to do more than admire the pictures.  But for Gilliam fans, this won’t be much of an issue:  Overall, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a worthwhile effort, perhaps the single best Gilliam (and Gilliamesque) film in more than a decade.

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