KC and I were surprised to see The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus come to Richmond, so we went to see it quickly while we still could. (Back before the newspaper fired the movie critic, every year around Oscar time, he’d list his picks, typical well-reviewed stuff, then note how only about 40% of them had played the city so far.) It was … exactly what I expected for a film by Terry Gilliam. I saw echoes of Baron Munchausen, Time Bandits, and The Fisher King. Mostly, I saw lots of amazing visual imagery with themes that were clear but left me uncertain about what the director’s message was. Gilliam doesn’t seem to believe in redemption, just fate, which might be why I’m less than sympatico with him.
This was also Heath Ledger’s last movie. His role was shared by Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell to complete the film, and the device works beautifully given the imaginative nature of the story. Also starring were Christopher Plummer as the doctor of the title, Lily Cole as his daughter, Andrew Garfield as the boy in love with her, Tom Waits as the devil, and Verne Troyer as annoying commentator.
You can watch the trailer online or check out the official site, but I recommend going in knowing as little as possible. It’s a meditation on storytelling from someone who’s had troubles getting his vision out there uninfluenced by business interests, an apparently semi-autobiographical take on feeling old and passed by in a world of entertainment that no longer values imagination.