Rewind Review: The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus 

The Imaginarium of Dr. Panassus is a vexing and perplexing film. It is most definitely imaginative. It’s most definitely Terry Gilliam; however, a lot of the positives that can be said about it end there as unfortunate as that is.

It is rare when simulacrum, in the form of real life events, can have a true impact on a film. The untimely death of Heath Ledger did affect this film, however, as shocking as it sounds to say it, perhaps not in a negative way. No disrespect intended, as Heath Ledger did a fine job in this film. As a matter of fact he had this critic quite convinced that he was one type of character then he ended up being another entirely. Think of it this way, however, had Ledger’s character not been played by other actors, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell there would’ve been very little which was noteworthy about the film.

Yes, it’s incredibly inventive but it’s the kind of tale that takes so long to unwind itself that by the time you have it all sorted, one you may not have it sorted correctly and two you start to wonder why is this story being told in the first place. Gilliam is a tremendous visual artist and the irreverence and surrealism so gleefully on display in this film is admirable and on occasion quite funny but at times things just didn’t click, in fact more often than not.

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One of the bigger problems is Andrew Garfield as Anton. Yes, his character is supposed to be somewhat annoying yet he is supposed to be right and the guy we pull for but he just ends up being annoying and in what was a very good cast he ends up sticking out like a very, very sore thumb.

The film centers around a bet between Dr. Parnassus, a god-like character if not God Himself, and the Devil, played by Tom Waits. Yet towards the end the terms of that bet become very muddled. Mr. Nick, as the Devil is called in this venture, invariably changes the terms of the bet to make it more sporting as he tends to do but then it becomes near impossible to figure out what “having gotten a soul” really is and even barring all that after all is seemingly lost Mr. Nick lets Parnassus off the hook.

Obviously, things can be read into the bartering of souls and gambling with the devil and what the Imaginarium ultimately signifies in the bigger picture of things, however, when a film fails to entertain on the surface digging becomes a tiresome venture. The best thing about the aforementioned tale is that it seems destined to repeat itself when we see the characters at the very end but the film seemed to be building towards some sort of finality so that’s not nearly the coup it should be.

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There was a fabulous concept in a flashback where Parnassus was with the monks about a story constantly needing to be told and that was never followed through neither were some of the more intriguing paths this film could have taken.

Sadly, instead of giving us a lot of food for thought or sharp, biting satire the emotion associated with this film is more aptly stated as flummoxed for just as the Imaginarium itself the image may be pretty but there’s not nearly enough substance behind it.

5/10

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