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THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS, 2009
A story-telling doctor's deal with the devil sends him scrambling to save his daughter on the eve of her 16th birthday.
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When the production on the film stopped after the tragic and unexpected death of Heath Ledger, Terry Gilliam was originally going to let the project fall. But Ledgerís family and friends wanted the film to be finished and so the famed director continued the production through to the end, making some changes along the way. Although itís great to see a film that was originally going to fade away become resurrected, this is unfortunately not the film I was hoping it couldíve been.
The story focuses on Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) and his small band of performers as they tell stories from their travelling theatre at numerous locations, gaining very little attention or respect. As the day comes closer for Dr. Parnassus to hand over his beautiful daughter Valentina (Lily Cole) to the devil, Mr. Nick (Tom Waits), they find a stranger dangling from under a bridge and decide to save him. This stranger is then revealed as Tony (Heath Ledger), a man struggling with amnesia and brings new life to their theatre.
However, Tony starts using Dr. Parnassusí magical mirror for their shows, which starts causing chaos for the travelling performers, as the mirror is the gateway to the Doctorís imagination. This is when Tony starts abusing with the mirror, transforming into three different forms (played by Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell) every time he enters and uses the power of the mirror for his own personal gain, revealing who he is during the course of the story.
Unfortunately, the filmís narrative is a bit everywhere and scattered, with flashbacks of the Doctorís encounters with Mr. Nick that sets up their relationship in the present day and the filmís main journey, as well as the numerous actors playing as Tony and his transformations. There doesnít seem to be a clear, strait forward message and the overall main plot was understandable, but itís one that can get quite confusing at times.
Using a blend of computer-generated backgrounds, staged set pieces and real locations, this is the mixture that actually pulls off really well and makes these parts of the film the most interesting about it.
The set pieces and real locations are both used for the scenes set in the present day and what makes these locations interesting is that they are dull and bland colours, giving the actors much more colour and attention for their performances. This is also the same technique used for the travelling theatre, giving it much more light and character among the dull locations itís set upon.
For the computer-generated scenes, that was done by the blue-screen technology that is quite common in most mainstream films and though the effects may not be as groundbreaking as the up-coming Avatar (dir. James Cameron), it suits well with the filmís style. The film is mainly wacky and highly imaginative, giving the dull colours of the film some new life, despite seeming quite cartoonish at times.
Since the film stopped halfway through production and eventually finished with the support they gained, both the crew and the cast have done a great job to complete a film that was almost listed as incomplete.
With only previously seen Twelve Monkeys (dir. Terry Gilliam) before seeing this film, Gilliam has lead a crew of very dedicated people who had to make new changes and additions to the original story and although I didnít exactly think the film was great, it does deserve to at least gain recognition for the entire crew. This hasnít put me off from seeing another Terry Gilliam film and frankly, that means a good thing.
Of course, I canít write this review without the mention of the cast, whom have all done a great job at playing peculiar, yet likable, characters. Heath Ledgerís last performance as the questioning Tony doesnít fall short from his portrayal as the Joker, but he still does a convincing job, while Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell fill in the gaps nicely in dedication to the memories of Ledger. Christopher Plummer and Tom Waits both play brilliant opposites of each other in a bizarre relationship and this is another highlight of the film since they play characters filled with energy.
With the film not becoming a total disappointment, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus isnít exactly what I was expecting and doesnít quite live as high to itís hopes. However, this is a good reason to see the latest from Terry Gilliam and see the last performance Heath Ledger will ever give.