The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus Terry Gilliam

The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus Terry Gilliam
Only Terry Gilliam could create such a wonderful and unique spectacle amidst the tragedy surrounding this, the great Heath Ledger's final performance. For a story about the power of imagination, it's woefully fitting that Gilliam had to work overtime to bend his tale to the circumstances. As revealed in his very forthcoming director's commentary, the original inspiration for the film was simply to create something original starting from a blank slate. It begins with a mysterious theatre wagon, seemingly from another time, being ignored in the streets of modern London, where people just want to drink and shop. Keeping the pacing snappy, Gilliam quickly thrusts viewers into Parnassus's surreal Imaginarium, twice, before commencing the story proper. Dr. Parnassus (the masterful Christopher Plummer) has been alive for centuries, after making a deal with the devil, who goes by Mr. Nick, which would see Parnassus's daughter Valentina become his property upon her 16th birthday. With the day looming and Parnassus despairing, eternal gambler Mr. Nick proposes a new deal: the first to five souls wins. You see, within the Imaginarium, people are faced with a choice: the easy low road or the difficult path to creative achievement. When the Imaginarium crew discovers Ledger's Tony hanging under a bridge (a scene a studio would certainly have cut), they save him at Valentina's insistence and Parnassus takes it as a sign. Tony, who claims to remember nothing, proves to be quite the charming and enterprising businessman, swiftly increasing the Imaginarium's audience, putting them back in the soul game. Ledger delivers a remarkable performance, which is all the more heartbreaking because of his lively zeal and impressive ad-libbing, which became a sort of infectious contest among the cast. Verne Troyer is given his first real acting opportunity, as is model Lily Cole as Valentina; both hit it out of the park, as does Tom Waits, playing the devil with suave panache only he could muster. It's uncanny how well the versions of Tony within the Imaginarium work, as played by Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell, all of whom deferred pay to Ledger's daughter. This double-disc set is loaded with features, including an elaborate deleted scene, various premiere and film festival appearances, detailed talks on the equally stunning and goofy art direction, special effects and set designs, interviews with cast and crew, a compositional breakdown of the first Imaginarium sequence and behind-the-scenes genesis of the film's making. As much Ledger content as possible is provided: a playful wardrobe test, an audio interview prior to filming that's so positive, intelligent and upbeat that it's hard to listen to without getting misty-eyed, and interviews with most of the cast on the impact of working with such a talented and inspiring actor. In typical Gilliam self-deprecation, there's an optional introduction imploring viewers to lower their expectations and become like a child to watch the film, which, if taken to heart, will lead you into a wondrous journey that is as magical for its risk-taking as it is for its sheer breadth of imagination. (E1)