Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Christopher Plummer, Heath Ledger, Lily Cole, Andrew Garfield, Verne Troyer, Tom Waits, Paloma Faith, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell, Peter Stormare
Written by: Terry Gilliam, Charles McKeown
Directed by: Terry Gilliam
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violent images, some sensuality, language and smoking
Running Time: 122
Date: 05/22/2009
IMDB

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Magic Mirrors

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The untimely death of Heath Ledger halfway through production and director Terry Gilliam's clever way of filling in the blanks by using other actors (Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell) will no doubt encompass most of the discussion around this movie. But that aside (and given the film's rather unfinished feeling), it really is an outstanding work of personal vision and dazzling imagery. It's a rare thing: a fantasy film filled with gorgeous computer effects, but also with a dark, mature sensibility (it doesn't rely completely on its effects).

Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) runs a traveling carnival show featuring a magic mirror that leads to fantastic worlds. Long ago he made a deal with the devil, called Mr. Nick (Tom Waits) -- with his daughter Valentina (Lily Cole) as the prize -- and the deadline for the deal is nearly up. So Doctor Parnassus strikes a new deal with Mr. Nick: the first one to collect five souls wins. Meanwhile, one night after a show, the doctor's crew, including Percy (Vern Troyer) and Anton (Andrew Garfield), discover and rescue a hanged man. The man, Tony (Heath Ledger), can remember nothing, but Doctor Parnassus is convinced that he has been sent for a special reason. And still there are many more secrets yet to be revealed.

Gilliam is incapable of telling a story casually and his personal obsessions often come along as a bonus. The director's very specific way of looking at things, i.e. his use of space, lighting and cutting, will thrill more adventurous moviegoers, but may upset moviegoers looking for something a bit simpler and more streamlined. Though it's a fantasy, it's not necessarily a family movie, and most of the elements here are probably much too dark for younger moviegoers.

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