Sunday, August 1, 2010

Movie review: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Well, it's been more than two weeks since my last post. Reason for that is that is spent it reading "Naruto" manga. Post about that will follow soon, in day or two... Also, I had a very busy two weeks at work (working on Sunday and during night got me really sleep-deprived), but next week I'm on vacation. So I expect at least two more posts. I plan to read "The Blood Knight", third book in "The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone" series. Also, there will definitely be some anime on the schedule, probably "Durarara!".

Now, let's get on with the movie. I saw the trailer for "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" few weeks in movie-theater, before watching "The Eclipse". Trailer looked very good: great cast (Heath Ledger, Johny Deep, Jude Law, Colin Farrell), a bit childish, but impressive CGI and epic story. After watching the movie, I can say that trailer is very misdirectioning, because this movie is quite different from what I expected. But not in a bad way; this is one of the most quality movies I watched in long time. By quality, I mean in acting, consistent and interesting plot and strong and educating images.

The story is variation of "Faust" by Goethe. I never read the original work, but I learned about it in high school, read extracts (big book of extracts of classical masterpieces for high school was one very, very useful book in high school; despite reading two-three books a week, I was never able to force myself to read school-assignments) and read or watched different adaptations ("If at Faust You Don't Succeed" by Roger Zelazny come immediately in mind), so I know the premise in general.

In this movie, Dr. Parnassus made a deal with the Devil few centuries ago: he will gain immortality in exchange for every product of his loins when he/she reaches sixteen years. Present time: Dr. Parnassus and his troupe, consisting of Anton, Valentina and Percy, are traveling Britain in road-show, trying to win the souls for the good side. Dr. Parnassus is grumpy drunkwith wild stories; Valentina is rebellious teenager with no knowledge of her destiny; Percy is "vertically-impaired person" with bad attitude; Anton is young man, the only one with passion in their troupe. They are traveling in cart led by horses, using scrapped costumes and cheap tricks, so is't given that they are not very successful. And why are they so special (except that doctor is more that thousand years old and talks with the Devil)? Because, when they succeed in getting a customer, they transfer her (by means of the "magic mirror") in doctor's mind. And there, customer's surrounding, it's world, is defined by their own psyche. Ultimately, customer is provided with the choice: good or bad. The bad is presented by Mr. Nick, the Devil, a nice, laughing older gentleman, who is ready to give you just what you want, be it a free shot of whiskey, or security of mother's skirt. The good is presented with gigantic stairs where customer must put some effort in getting over them. You can guess who has the better score. But, the troupe will get a new chance, when they save a hanged man; he has no memories of his past, but he can do the talk like he is born for it...

Characters are made as caricatures (drunkard, angry midget...), but acting is very good and you can easily believe in them. I wouldn't go too much further in describing them, because this movie is about characters.

Story is very interesting and it's never predictable. I didn't know it beforehand, but I wasn't surprised when I saw that movie is directed and partially written by Terry Gilliam, member of Monty Pythons. There is a clever trick with character played by Heath Ledger, but I don't want to spoil it. In any case, when "it" first happened, I wasn't really sure. Even more, I missed it second time.

As I mentioned, CGI and desing of the world inside the mind of Dr. Parnassus looks childish, but that is done intentionally, so don't be put off by it.

In short, one very strong movie and a fun to watch. Unfortunately, I don't think it will be much accepted because it asks for non-casual viewer. So, don't watch it before sleep or something like that...

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