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Archive for the ‘DIRECTED BY: Terry Gilliam’ Category

The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus

16 Jan

The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus – directed by Terry Gilliam. Fantasy. A travelling theatre offers its eternal creative powers out to a world not interested in them whatsoever, until a certain Tony turns up. 123 minutes Color 2009.

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Terry Gilliam is your ordinary fantasist, thank goodness, which means that his story is firmly lodged in classical narrative rubric, e.g., once upon a time there was an ancient magician who had a beautiful daughter. Living in their magic cave was a monster and a servant boy who was in love with her. The magician had failed in his work, however, because he had made a deal with a demon: he could live forever if he gave his first daughter as the demon’s bride. One day, the theatre company saved a young man from drowning. This man, named Tony, was set dire tasks to save the daughter: he had to enter the magic world of the wizard with three females whose souls he would sacrifice.  And so forth and so on. All we see is quite delightful and well grounded. The piece is fanciful and well cast, with Christopher Plummer as the magician, and where it is not well cast, the costumes supply the deficiency. All is well, or would be well, until the drowning man appears. Then things fall apart. For Tony is played by Heath Ledger, in what should have been the most daring and entertaining performance of his career, save for one thing: it is made invisible by facial hair. You cannot see what he is feeling or thinking; you cannot see what he wants; you cannot see what sort of person he is. The performance is a dead loss. For there is a rule for young leading male film actors. Keep hair out of all parts of your face. Keep your head hair combed back off your brow, no matter how much younger than you are you want to look, and keep all beards, goatees, mustaches, sideburns miles away from you. Beards are fine for the stage where the close-up is outlawed, where no one can see your features anyhow, but on film, nope, never. In film, they do not define character; they demote it. (You may, as Clark Gable did so effectively, wear a thin mustache as a sort of medical prescription. But that’s it.) Facial hair destroys performances. It never adds character. It always conceals character, because it conceals filmed human response. If you are a leading man, that is. If you are Monty Woolley, do as you please. Anyhow, we sigh and wander on through the film in all its expected and unexpected treats. Jeff and Mycheal Danna have written charming music and the special effects are a riot. Until we come to a point in the story when Ledger has to take three of the ladies through the magic mirror, at which point he turns into impersonations of himself, which is a lot of fun. The first is played by Johnny Depp, and that’s all right; the second by Jude Law, and that’s all right too; the third, however, drowns us in excess and even Colin Farrell, who is fine in the part, cannot rescue the logorrhea of the director, who throws into the last episode everything he ever thought up about everything – and the movie is swamped and goes under. He has a fecund imagination but no talent to cull the fruit.  Too bad.  A lost film. A lost performance.

 

 
 
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