Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (#377)

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) was, for most people, that unfinished film Heath Ledger was working on when he died, months before the release of The Dark Knight, which was to cement his place in Hollywood history.  Never mind that it's also a film by Terry Gilliam, which has its own notorious connotations. The fact is, it's both a film by Terry Gilliam and Heath Ledger's last movie, and is worth noting for both of these elements, and better than whatever connotations they may usher.  Most critics found a hard time appreciating Ledger throughout his career, and so did audiences.  His Joker was an aberration,  at least to them.  I knew he was something special from the moment I saw the pilot of Roar, and eagerly followed his career.  Aside from Brokeback Mountain, Ledger fell into relative obscurity, a B-level star who happened to be seated at the A-level.  The same can be said for Gilliam, best known as a member of Monty Python, and for delivering overachievers that only occasionally found mainstream success (The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys).  Yet both Ledger and Gilliam were to me consistently brilliant, and Imaginarium is a remarkable confluence (they'd previously worked together on Brothers Grimm).  Ledger's ability to be a credible lead actor could sometimes be sabotaged by his youthful looks (no surprise, because he was on the younger side when he broke through).  Imaginarium is the first time he seems to be mature enough to truly deliver a commanding presence (over this summer's new Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield, no less).  It beggars so many questions about where he might have gone from there.  Famously, his performance was completed by Colin Farrell, Johnny Depp, and Jude Law, each of whom appear as pure versions of themselves in said Imaginarium, which is run by Christopher Plummer, who turns out to be the real lead character, striking a bargain with the Devil for the soul of his daughter.  The results are beyond brilliant.  Perhaps the attention caused by circumstances was a mixed blessing, but for anyone who does see the film, there are all the more layers to enjoy about Gilliam's biggest triumph of, well, imagination.  No one else could have made this film, and a quirk of fate pushed a greater emphasis on the very themes it had already set out to explore.  Ledger's legacy is solidified.

Star Trek bonus!

I is for Ishka
(from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
Otherwise known by her son Rom as Moogie, Ishka was the polar opposite of her other offspring, Quark.  Then again, they weren't as different as they might have thought.  Quark never really played by the rules, either.  He was as much of an outsider as his mother, who bucked all the rules of Ferengi society in pursuit of prophet.  In the end, Ishka got the last laugh, but really, Quark got exactly what he wanted, too.  Go back and watch Deep Space Nine and tell me differently.

A-to-Z Challenge!

9 comments:

Leslie Rose said...

Interesting take on Dr. P. I'm a fan of both Heath and Terry. You've inspired me to dig up the movie and watch it. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Misha Gericke said...

I couldn't get myself to watch the Imaginarium of Doctor Pernassus because I was so sad about Heath Ledger. Maybe it's time I watch it. :-)

Tony Laplume, Scouring Monk said...

It's so worth watching this one. There's an acknowledged moment that may seem kind of grim for Heath, knowing what came next, but on the whole, it's such a life-affirming movie. Heath's character is the conduit that enables Plummer to triumph over his problems.

nutschell said...

I watched the film and I still don't know if I liked it or not:)
Happy A-Zing!
Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

Tony Laplume, Scouring Monk said...

It's definitely not an easy movie, unless you're already used to trying to figure out these kinds of things. That's what Gilliam does in his movies (especially in Brazil). There are more distractions in this one. Once you figure them out, their specific purposes, though, it should become easier to understand. I tried to make some of them clear.

DL Hammons said...

My wife and I were Ledger fans...and did not think his Joker was out of bounds for him! As for Gilliam...he has always been on the outside looking in as far as Hollywood is concerned! :)

Tony Laplume, Scouring Monk said...

I'm so glad that there were other people out there enjoying what Heath Ledger had to offer. For those who are still skeptical, I like to reference Lords of Dogtown. Tell me you would have seen that performance coming, either. And now you have a clear pattern.

Sharkbytes said...

I've heard of most of those films, but don't know much about them. I'm trying to visit all the A-Z Challenge Blogs this month.

Tony Laplume, Scouring Monk said...

I always try to include a bit of what each movie actually is, but my main focus is simply to emphasize that they need to be watched for one reason or another, leaving the whys as the final discovery of those who choose to pursue them, in case I've been any bit successful in making them sound intriguing.

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