February 4th, 2010


The power of Ledger and Gilliam compels me

The timing may be right tonight to do this: Cinema 21 is showing its final screenings of Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. I can go to the 7:00 show.

It's been a long time since I've gone into a Gilliam film knowing so little about its plot, or its mood. I know the behind-the-scenes drama -- Heath Ledger's death, the near-collapse of the production in the wake of his death, the scrambling needed to recover the film, the actors who banded together to finish Ledger's role, Gilliam getting injured during production -- but very little about what is in the script and the final film. There will be discovery, along with a wash of imagery.

I shall see if I will see it. If not tonight, then some other time some other way. But I want it to be tonight.
Whale fluke

The opulence of imagination

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. Say it. Opulent title, isn't it? Feels dramatic leaving your tongue. Kind of awkward to say at the ticket counter, though, with the world as you know it and familiar walls and streets all near you; I said "One ticket for the 7 o'clock," and as Cinema 21 is a single-screen theater, the ticket taker knew what I meant.

I'm processing this film. I could sort of tell you some of the plot, but what I took away from my first screening of it was more the emotions, and some of the dream logic, of the piece. And I left the theater feeling a gentle sadness. Probably an effect of it being Heath Ledger's last film; as it's a film with death-like moments, and someone who left the world terribly early is prominent within it, the precariousness of life is really especially palpable here. It's felt. As is the wistfulness of long life, which in Imaginarium ain't all it's cracked up to be, either (Christopher Plummer as the titular character often looks marrow-deep exhausted). And also felt is sex appeal: this is the most honestly sexy film Terry Gilliam's made in an age. I'm a little speechless at Lily Cole, who has A LOT to do here, but to say what she does in the film might give away big spoilers. I won't do that. But she is a vision. Many will fall into crushes on her thanks to this film.

There's much going on in Imaginarium, too much for me to process or discuss tonight, especially after only one viewing. I'll see when I can see it again. Gilliam films, even to as huge a fan of his as me, can feel vaguely formless on first viewing, because they tend not to be structured like many other films and it can take a while to feel and understand the rhythms of the storytelling. This was that first viewing. There will be more to see when I see it again.

This entry needs to end, and I need to reach bed and reach sleep. But the "too long; didn't read" version of my review: Wow.