Thursday, October 22, 2009

Film Review : The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (dir Terry Gilliam)

There is no denying Terry Gilliam's visual brilliance - in all of his films created remarkable images which stay with you long after the film - and this is certainly no exception. From the beatifully realised wagon of Doctor Parnassus, which transforms at the tug of a rope into a fully-functioning stage, to the remarkable pastel dreamscapes of the Doctor's imagination which characters can enter through a mirror on the stage.

But a film needs more than just an ability to look good - a bit of plot, some tension and maybe a couple of ideas wouldn't go amiss. And this is where this film goes sadly wrong. The premise - that characters can enter into the imagination of the immortal doctor and realise their desires - is good, and everyone from Midas onwards knows that one should be careful about what you wish for. But Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) has, for reasons I didn't really follow, made a deal with the Devil (Tom Waits playing Tom Waits) and this is generally not a good thing to do. So innocent souls must be attracted through the mirror, and some seem to succumb within Doctor Parnassus' imagination but others don't. It's all rather confusing.

Now, those of you who have seen some movies in the past may have seen the following plot devices
1. The girl with a choice between the guy who always really loved her and the flashy newcomer
2. A deadline, and a ticking clock
3. A chase (But this time on imaginary stilts!)

By the time all these have been telegraphed your cliche detectors would be on full beam if you weren't trying to wrestle with the detail of the plot, so eventually you give up and let all the beautiful cinematography wash over you. And rightly so, because it all ends exactly as you expected, but since you didn't really care that much for any of the characters in the first place you're not really bothered. You have been entertained for a couple of hours, and you leave the cinema feeling that you have eaten a meringue - it was good whilst it lasted, but hardly satisfying.

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