Well last night was a delicious treat, a meal out at a Japanese restaurant and a viewing of The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus. Gilliam's film is quite exceptional, I felt the relationship between Christopher Plummer's character of Dr Parnassus and Tom Wait's as Old Nick was far more interesting then the "love triangle" of the younger supporting cast. I would have actually liked to have seen more of Old Nick and Dr Parnassus in colloquy. Gilliam has a fine point tip to writing these kind of exchanges between crestfallen characters muddled in their whimsical worlds.
First a few grumbles ...
I'm an avid fan of Gilliam's work, and I felt the only thing that sort of let The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus down was the use of CGI. Initially Gilliam invites us into Parnassus's imagination where the interior of his mind is staged like a wonderful propped landscape that appears endless. I felt the depth in these scenes, even in the scene with the stream of bottles which appeared less CGI then the later scenes - however, I could only feel that this CGI was used because of the death of Heath Ledger because it is only when Ledger's alter-actors portray his part that the CGI becomes so obvious, that it felt like there were time contraints with using Depp, Law and Farrell. CGI would have been the most obvious way to go in order to fit the shooting of those scenes in. This is purely inference on my behalf but my wife brought it up to me after the film, and I couldn't but help think it made sense.
The other thing that didn't quite gel with the feel of the rest of the film was one line, Anton says that Dr Parnassus doesn't want to control the world he just wants the world to control itself. I didn't see where this fitted in with the damnation of Dr Parnassus, as far as I could make out he had little interest in what the world did or was doing. He lived his eternal years from wager to wager, from bottle to bottle, and his objective up to the point of us entering into his world was to stave off the wager that would take his daughter away from him.
Lastly, Waits as a CGI Snake was poor going. The whole effect of the river transforming into a Cobra like beast with Tom's face on it reminded me of another very similar use of that effect, I think from one of the Harry Potter films (Incidentally, J.K.Rowling wanted Gilliam to direct the Harry Potter films). I would have preferred it if Old Nick had appeared as the Gondoler, simple but I think would have been more effective and I thought the Gondoler extra looked like a crew member rushed into hasty costume.
Now onto some of the good stuff.
The interior of the Dr Parnassus travelling stage carriage was remarkable, perfect Gilliam touches made it look and feel centuries old. I thought it was a brilliant touch to have it parked inside the torn down guts of a modern building with just the facade to fence it in.
The ending did not pamper to the public either with the cheeky line, "I can't guarantee the ending" said to a young lad who buys a model theatre complete with cut-out puppets of the characters involved in the film we are watching. This line also reveals the predicament of Dr Parnassus, who must hazard his future to the invitations of Old Nick ever present and waiting to wager a bet.
The story rides strongly all the way to the finish, with Gilliam's signature cinematic inclusion of Giants (This time a Giant Russian Mamma), Horses (Plenty of them on the carriage) and vintage Proscenium Theatres.
There is a tribute to the Python years with Terry throwing in some dancing Plods in short skirts singing before a large draped canvas with the slogan "We love violence" painted on it, and an extendable tongue unfolding into a long purple carpet from the mouth of a gaping Policeman.
It is absolutely worth catching at the cinema, and I am eagerly looking forward to The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Gilliam's next project.