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The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Jan

26

by

An actual movie review

BY MICHAEL D. CAIGOY, RADICAL POSTURE

I’ve resigned myself to a depressing fact. The directors I used to
like? Yeah, most of them suck now. Tarantino said goodbye to the raw
simplicity of “Reservoir Dogs,” and the crisp, inventive dialog of
“Pulp Fiction,” with “Kill Bill.” The mission statement of that POS
seemed to be, “Hey, look at all the stuff I like!” Say what you will
about his lack of originality (which is more than arguable), the man
knew how to keep a movie rolling along without clumsy exposition. But,
he’s lost his edge. Aside from a surprising performance by Christoph
Waltz, I can hardly remember anything about “Basterds.”

It doesn’t look like Martin Scorsese will stop creating roles for his
boyfriend, Leo, any time soon. Not until one of them is in the ground.
He compared that cocker spaniel to De Niro! Either he’s demented, or
he’s just blinded by love. James Cameron, the guy responsible for some
of the best movies of the ’80s and ’90s (and “Titanic”) finishes out
the decade with an obscenely expensive tribute to white liberal guilt;
starring cartoon blue people that sound like black people, and the
sensitive robot from “Terminator: Salvation.” Which, ironically, was
also the last nail in that franchise! Until the next fucking reboot.

So many once-good directors have traded exciting cinematography for
the sterile precision and total lack of realism provided by computer
graphics. Somehow, the lunatics have even convinced themselves it
looks good! I’m sure there’s some impetus to cave to this throughout
the industry, since all the money is flooding from film into the game
market (my buddy said the film conference at SXSW was like a wake
compared to the gamer one). It only makes sense to make games look
truly cinematic by bringing the quality of movies down to to meet them
halfway!

This is why I was worried to see Terry Gilliam seemingly infected with
the CG disease — a degenerative illness that causes blindness to the
crappiness of characters like the Golem. Everyone knows the guy’s
cursed. He’s got a permanent rain cloud following him — like the
Charlie Brown of filmmakers. You couldn’t really blame him for trying
to escape the uncertainty of achieving his ridiculously elaborate set
design by turning to the hideous possibilities of 3D graphics. That’d
be easy to imagine him doing… but also a cop out.

Fortunately, Gilliam is a little more clever than the Cameron,
Jackson, Lucas, et al. He’s found a way to use computer graphics in a
way that isn’t intrusively disgusting. There’s justification for the
dreamy appearance of it; and it doesn’t pervade every moment, with
actors visibly struggling to emote opposite tennis ball character
proxies in front of green screen landscapes. Astonishingly, he’s even
found a way to work around the casting, after the Gilliam curse sent
Heath “The Joker” Ledger to the Choir Invisible! He makes an actor’s
death fucking work for him! Jesus…

There isn’t much I can say about the plot without giving one of many
surprises away. It involves a traveling sideshow run by the doctor, a
bunch of whimsical shit, and old guys making vague advances on a
teenage girl. The cast is competent, if largely nondescript, but great
performances are turned in by Christopher Plummer, and a Tom Waits who seems to be savoring his villain role. Heath Ledger turns in a
performance that makes his dying suck all the more; and the proxy
Heaths do a good job at taking up the slack. Which they do through,
well, a lot of the movie. Kudos again to Gilliam for finding a way
around an actor’s demise without doing a lot of back-of-his-head shots
with stand-ins, or going into “Plan 9″ territory.

  • http://blog.rampart213.com THE RAMPART

    i agree, gilliam continues to give us gilliam movies. he manages to salvage another production tragedy. merchandising and ancillary profits will suffer, but the auteur survives yet another catastrophe with the admiration of superstar actors and cinema fans like me.

  • Adam

    I thought this was a real review, not a lot of “Look how cool I am because I hate a ton of shit” with almost nothing about the film being reviewed.

  • Biff Squat-Thrust

    I liked this review. And Gilliam is a genius.

  • wYSe Guy

    “Look how cool I am because I hate a ton of shit”

    Dude, screw you he’s got a point; the films that he bashes on are above mediocre; but since their by the greatest men in the business, they should be genre stomping. And their not. Except maybe Inglorious Basterds.

    As for this film, everybody knows of Terry Gilliam. The poor man’s reputation precedes him.

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