Gilliam takes viewers behind the magic mirror
by Camillo de Marco
Twenty-six years after winning Jury Prize with his Monty Python friends for The Meaning of Life, Terry Gilliam did not want to participate in competition at Cannes because, he said, “I don’t like losing”.
After receiving warm applause at this morning’s press screening, the first real test the director’s dazzling The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus [+see also:
film profile] will have to pass will be the UK theatres it hits on June 6 with its stellar cast of Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Tom Waits, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell.
The third film written with screenwriter Charles McKeown, Doctor Parnassus very much evokes their Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen), as well as Time Bandits and The Fisher King. However, the film even more marks a return to a more personal subject after Gilliam’s adaptations and literary outings of Tideland [+see also:
film profile], The Brothers Grimm [+see also:
film profile] and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Based on the director’s idea of a travelling theatre troupe in present-day London open to a fantastic and exotic world, Doctor Parnassus begins and unfolds like an animated book and is striking for the quantity of scenes that spring from Gilliam’s imagination, created with elaborate special effects by the Peerless Camera Company, the London-based company that has always worked with the filmmaker. In fact, the film required six months of pre-production and an overall budget of $30m.
In particular, the four-wheeled Imaginarium was inspired by the legendary toy theatres of Pollock’s Toy Museum of London and which for the film was photographed and reworked with Photoshop.
In the story, the immortal Dr. Parnassus (Plummer) and his sad little group made up of his daughter Valentina (Lily Cole) and two assistants (Andrew Garfield and Verne Troyer) offer the public the possibility to live in their ideal world through a magic mirror. Behind this magic lies a pact with the Devil (who else but Waits?), to whom Parnassus promised his daughter when she turns 16 in exchange for his immortality. The company is joined by the mysterious young Tony (Ledger), who will dive into the parallel world beyond the mirror to save the girl.
The premature and tragic death of the Australian actor just four weeks into shooting forced Gilliam to slightly change the script, with Depp, Law, e Farrell and replacing their friend in three sequences and certainly adding much to the film.
A wild hullaballoo, a fantasy and moral fairy tale, Doctor Parnassus once again brings to the screens Gilliam’s beloved characters – the marginalized, freaks and visionaries – to show us the power of emotions and the imagination and remind us that the world will continue to exist as long as someone, somewhere has a story to tell.
(Translated from Italian)
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