Sunday, June 17, 2012
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
Ledger plays Tony, an amnesic who becomes a pivotal figure in a feud between Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer), the immortal leader of a traveling theater company, and Mr. Nick (Tom Waits), the devil. The "Imaginarium" is a stage mirror that allows a person to enter an imaginary world commanded by Parnassus's mind where he or she chooses between good and evil. Parnassus and Mr. Nick are locked in a bet over souls, with the winner getting Parnassus' daughter Valentina (Lily Cole) as the prize.
Gilliam's followup to the dreary freak show of Tideland, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus finds the director on more familiar and comfortable territory, resulting in a movie that's more charming and has a lighter touch with a few darker elements on the edges. We re-visit some of Gilliam's favorite themes and motifs, including the power of imagination, its ability to provide an escape from life's daily hardships, the art and magnificence of story and performance, and the conflict between parent and child.
Gilliam seems to be channeling his Monty Python days with some of the images. One can't see the giant stone statue of Parnassus' head spinning in the sand, the giant flight of stone stairs to the heavens, or the head of a Russian woman opening up to reveal Mr. Nick at the controls of a cockpit and not be reminded of the crude animation of Flying Circus, although these are more polished. There's also a sense of humor, much of it coming from Verne Troyer as Percy, Parnassus' diminutive, long-suffering assistant who is always yelling at the doctor and others to stay focused on the task at hand.