Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Nog Visits Gilliam's Imaginarium (and is Glad to Escape!).
I think of Terry Gilliam as a lunatic who breaks out of his lunatic-cage every few years and somehow manages to make a film despite continual and outrageous setbacks (ranging from the studio butchering of Brazil to, in this case, the death of Heath Ledger). Sometimes these films are very good (I like Brazil, of course, and 12 Monkeys, and am also pretty fond of The Fisher King), and sometimes they are pretty bad (The Brothers Grimm and The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, whose unwieldy title alone pretty much tells you that the average moviegoer is not going to buy a ticket for it). There was always a sort of ramshackle element to Gilliam's fantasies (I haven't seen Time Bandits and Baron Munchausen in years but I recall both of them being awfully unwieldy yet somehow salvaged by their impressive visuals and the wild imagination of Gilliam. But Imaginarium never feels quite imaginative enough somehow. For every magic-mirror fantasy sequence that works (I kind of like the imagery of Depp floating around in a world of high-heeled shoes: yes, this really happens) another falls flat (a group of singing cops feels like a cut-rate version of Python's Lumberjack sketch). The reason a few people will seek this out, of course, is for the final performance of Ledger, but it's hard to imagine his fans will be satisfied with this (incomplete) performance as their final glimpse of a good actor. And while it was certainly nice of Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell to step in after Ledger's passing to play the magic-mirror versions of his character and help Gilliam finish the film, their performances are so limited that only Farrell (yes, Farrell) makes any kind of impression. Tom Waits, however, playing the Devil, seems to be having an absolute blast, making us wish that the rest of the movie had even half that sense of fun. A disappointment and yet...I'll certainly be in line the next time Gilliam breaks free and makes another film.