The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus

Film, Fantasy
2 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

Read our interview with Gilliam here

There can’t have been a movie-lover on the planet who didn’t want ‘… Doctor Parnassus’ to be great, a triumphant comeback for a troubled director after his leading man passed away during production. Terry Gilliam’s struggle to bring Heath Ledger’s last performance to the screen was laudable: he rallied a crack crew of A-listers (including Johnny Depp and Jude Law) to essay enigmatic variations on their fallen comrade, all the while struggling with his own grief at the loss of a friend.But there’s no escaping the fact that the completed film, though lovingly made, is something of a mess. Set in a stark contemporary London, it’s a patronising elegy for the death of the public imagination, as personified by Christopher Plummer’s Parnassus, a travelling teller of tall tales whose audience is progressively shrinking.

Ledger excels as snake-tongued amnesiac Tony Liar, who hops aboard the ramshackle Imaginarium and begins to charm punters with his raffish air of money-grubbing mischief. But his performance – the film’s trump card – is repeatedly elbowed out by a centuries-spanning duel between Parnassus  and Tom Waits’s cigar-chomping  Satan, told in garish CG flashbacks.
It’s telling that Parnassus, an  unsubtle proxy for the director, never recognises his own culpability as his audience’s interest dwindles: it’s modern man’s refusal to open his mind, not the artist’s unwillingness to connect, that dooms the Imaginarium. It’s unlikely Gilliam’s own, undeniably brilliant career will be revitalised by this rambling, undisciplined and indulgent piece of work.

Read our interview with Gilliam here



Release details

Release date:
Friday October 16 2009
123 mins

Cast and crew

Terry Gilliam
Terry Gilliam
Christopher Plummer
Jude Law
Colin Farrell
Lily Cole
Johnny Depp
Heath Ledger