Jan 12 2010

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Last night (at the request of a friend), I went to see Terry Gilliam‘s new movie, “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” (2010). This movie will be long remembered as the last project that the late Heath Ledger worked on before his death by “accidental” prescription drug overdose. He actually died during the making of the movie, so some of his parts had to be completed by Johnny Depp, Jude Law (who I enjoyed in “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” (2004)), and Colin Farrel (who I liked in “In Bruges” (2008), and that’s about it). If it wasn’t for the tragedy and collaboration that followed, I think the movie would be shortly forgotten. As it is, it will probably be remembered only on Trivial Pursuit cards as: “What was Heath Ledger’s last movie?” to which everyone will answer, “Didn’t he play the Joker in The Dark Knight?” Do you see how I’m using my review to talk about other movies? Yeah, I just noticed that too…

About the movie. Ummm… What does it mean if I’m not sure what the movie is about? Let’s recap. Doctor Parnassus is an old man (like, Methuselah old) and rides around modern-day London with a small troupe of misfits putting on a sideshow. The sideshow isn’t particularly compelling, so most people just blow them off as kooks. Anyone who does accept an invite onto the stage is directed through a flimsy stage mirror and deposited into a fantastical world stemming from their imagination. The portal only works while Doctor Parnassus (an ancient monk) is on stage (or nearby) in a trance. Once in the fantasy world, the visitors are somehow “reborn” by this experience, exit the mirror on a giant swing, and happily give all their possessions to the traveling troupe. While all this is going on, Doctor Parnassus is trying to make good on a bargain he made with the Devil (played wonderfully by Tom Waits), who wants to claim his Betty Boop look-alike daughter Valentina upon her 16th birthday. That’s the set-up and we haven’t even got to Heath Ledger’s part… *deep breath* Heath’s character is initially an amnesiac that the troupe rescues from a hanging who (come to find out) is a great salesman, and is fine with being hanged so long as he’s swallowed a fife beforehand. He helps lure unsuspecting women onto stage to help Parnassus claim five souls per the bargain with the Devil. I think the only thing that Imaginarium and “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” (1988) offer are evidence that Terry Gilliam has far better drugs than the rest of us. Did I mention that the movie includes dwarf-actor Verne Troyer dressed in a monkey outfit, talking smack about midgets?!

The Imaginarium is in many ways like the freak show it portrays. You’re drawn in by beautifully painted panels and tapestries, promises of mystery and magic (or a friend who really, really wants to see the movie), and you leave feeling like you’re $10.50 poorer with nothing to show for it.

“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things that escape those who dream only at night.”  – Edgar Allan Poe, because the movie wasn’t particularly quote-worthy

2 out of 5


Sep 19 2009

9

9Spoilers!

As this is the first Lounge Monkey movie review, let’s get this straight from the beginning. There are spoilers. There will always be spoilers. Lots and lots of spoilers! If you don’t want to know anything about the movie itself, go to Rotten Tomatoes, look at the Tomatometer and decide whether you want to see the movie based on that. If you’ve already seen the movie and want to talk about its content, read and post here.

Last night we went to the theater and watched an interesting little computer animated movie titled “9“. The movie revolves around a collection of little sack-people as they attempt to carve out a safe haven in an alternative post-apocalyptic world, circa 1939. The creators of 9 did something that I always feel is risky, combining science with magic. Sometimes it works but most of the time, it doesn’t. I enjoyed watching the small army of para-mechanical homunculi running around fighting against the Soulless Monster-Machines of Science. I was willing to believe a scientist could have resorted to the teachings of Paracelsus once science was turned against him! Why not? I liked the contrast with  Frankenstein, who studied alchemy before entering medical school (not the other way around). In fact, I liked most of what I saw, until the end… The end left me feeling a little empty.

Leaving the theater, I thought of numerous ways the creators could have ended it–but I don’t get a say in these things, except for here… *sigh* I also think they should have developed the scientist more… and made each of the homunculi an aspect of his personality rather than just a collection of standard archetypes (e.g., entrenched patriarch, big dumb fighter, crazy clairvoyant guy, girl-power adventuress, rebellious thinker).  A small complaint, but I think it would have added some depth to the film. Do animations need depth? *shrug*

My last point has to do with what comes afterward. At the ending the remaining heroes stand victorious above a desolate world. There is hope! There is promise! But they are sexless (unless they’re hiding some other things inside those zippers)… Ah well. Hope they know how to build more…

“I’m not sure. But this world is ours now. It’s what we make of it.”

3.5 out of 5