Saturday, June 26, 2010

"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" [B+]

Terry Gilliam's latest fantasy is successful in its extreme audacity, in its ability to create actual dream worlds and draw the viewer willingly into them along with the characters. As I recently wrote, part of my enjoyment of a film derives from how well it delivers on its promises. The very title of this one promises the unusual, even more than other Gilliam projects like Time Bandits, Brazil, or The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. It definitely delivers the unusual.

As long as you allow yourself to be cast about on an ocean of a plot, blown by the wind and tossed by the waves, rather than pushed down a narrow river, there is plenty to enjoy here. The acting is as manic as necessary, even from the redoubtable Christopher Plummer. The shadow of Heath Ledger looms large. But typical for Gilliam, the sets and props, even those in the real world, are what scream for your attention. Surely in those cut out and pasted together bits and pieces, harking back to the Monty Python animation, must be the details that will bring clarity to everything.

But there's not. And the film continues and ends in a mushy, yet satisfying, mess. The plot is fulfilled and it is not. The characters grow and they remain the same. But the battle was glorious.

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