Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Went to see Terry Gilliam's latest film ( his 10th not including the Monty flicks) Monday night with Christine and we both blown away by the visuals and storytelling. For me it's up there with Brazil and Adventures of Baron Münchhausen. I haven't been a fan of Gilliam's last three films. Fear and Loathing was far too long and I got sick of Hunter S Thompson's nihilism of America. Brothers Grimm lacks Gilliam's heart and Tideland was to dark to enjoy. Dr Parnassus brings Gilliam back to what he does best to encourage a kind of fantasy, to create magical realism.

It tells the story of Dr Parnassus (top left) and his traveling show where members of the audience get an opportunity to choose between light and joy or darkness and gloom. Blessed with the extraordinary gift of guiding the imaginations of others, Dr Parnassus is cursed with a dark secret. Long ago he made a bet with the devil, (played by my favorite musician, Tom Waits ( right)) in which he won immortality. Many centuries later, on meeting his one true love, Dr Parnassus made another deal with the devil, trading his immortality for youth, on condition that when his first-born reached its 16th birthday she would become the property of devil. Valentina is now rapidly approaching this age and Dr Parnassus is desperate to protect her from her fate. The devil arrives to collect but, always keen to make a bet, renegotiates the wager. Now the winner of Valentina will be determined by whoever seduces the first five souls. Enlisting a series of wild, comical and compelling characters in his journey, Dr Parnassus promises his daughter's hand in marriage to the man that helps him win.

Like most of Gilliam's work he doesn't take any shortcuts. The imaginations of Dr. Pasrnassus mind is a joy to behold. Some of the landscapes, the colors are stark, saturated, and naturalistic. Such as in a Ladder World which reminds me of a painterly landscape of Grant Wood's Corn Paintings. Or the Water scene which is realistic, complex and baroque with color. Who ever enters into the Doctor's world would reflect his/her imagination. I like his take on the devil, he's the one who always distracts you from the big ideas - doing the difficult, doing the impossible. He's actually a good, reasonable person. Probably the most sensible person around in the film. But I don't want to dwell too much into the story, so go out and see the film, please. Movies today seem to generalized on popcorn eye candy, this film can be enjoyed time and time again.

Terry is turning 70 this year and is trying again to complete The Man who killed Don Quixote, Robert Duvell is the new choice for the Don. Let's wish him the best of luck.

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