Thursday, May 6, 2010

What You Should Have Seen #12

I seem to recall enjoying, if not completely understanding, the previous Terry Gilliam movies I’ve seen. Time Bandits holds a special place in my heart, and 12 Monkeys really made me look at Brad Pitt as a serious actor. I’ve seen Brazil but don’t remember anything about it, and the same can be said of The Fisher King. The Brothers Grimm was a little disappointing, but Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was incredible. Add that to his Monty Python history, and the man has some serious movie cred with me. So I would have seen The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus regardless of Heath Ledger.

But Ledger is in it, and this is the movie that was being filmed when he died. It’s kind of morbid, actually. It’s like watching The Crow only because Brandon Lee died during the movie’s production. But I like Ledger as an actor, and as a fan I think you want to see this final work, the last thing we were given by an artist. Sure, we’ll always be able to watch The Dark Knight or A Knight’s Tale or 10 Things I Hate About You when we need to get our Heath fix, but watching him here, in this movie, and knowing that a short time after some of these scenes were filmed this man died, it’s somewhat fascinating.

Enough with the morbidity, though, and onto the movie. I go into this knowing nothing of the story and only expecting the strange and wonderful and spectacle that is the trademark of a Terry Gilliam film.

The first time we see Ledger is disturbing, to say the least. He’s hanging from a bridge over…the Thames?...with a noose around his neck. Had he not died in such a tragic way, this might not seem so disturbing, but he did and it is.

I love the device used to cover the scenes where Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell had to come in and cover Ledger’s scenes after his death. In Dr. Parnassus’ Imaginarium, people get to live out their imagination and experience their fondest dreams. When Tony, Ledger’s character, enters the mirror and thereby the Imaginarium, his appearance changes into that of Depp, Law and Farrell. Had you not known that the star had died during production, you’d think it was originally part of the movie. It’s pretty seamless.

When doing a bit of research on the movie via Wikipedia, a bastion of truth and accuracy, I learned this:

In the end, Gilliam had access to Depp for but one day and three hours. All the shots involving him had to be completed in one take in order to fit into Depp's compressed time schedule. Depp, Farrell, and Law opted to redirect their wages for the role to Ledger's young daughter, Matilda, who had been left out of an old version of Ledger's will,[31] and Gilliam altered the part of the credits saying "A Terry Gilliam film" to "A film from Heath Ledger and friends.”

That’s kind of wonderful.

Here’s a review of the movie I read shortly after the movie premiered in the U.S. It’s from Peter David, an author I enjoy and admire. He liked the movie immensely. Read all about it here.

If I had to describe this movie in one word, it would be “beautiful.” But since I don’t, I can expand a bit. Everything about this movie comes together to make this not a movie, but an experience. It’s like reading a great story for the first time. You don’t just read the words, you experience it and it becomes something magical. Every single actor involved, not just the marquee draws of of Ledger, Law, Depp and Farrell, but Christopher Plummer, Tom Waits, Lily Cole and Andrew Garfield did a wonderful job of drawing you into this world. And Verne Troyer was surprisingly good. The story was touching and comical and adventurous. The costumes and settings, both in the real world and especially in the Imaginarium, were breathtaking.

While not an original story (deals with the devil are a dime a dozen), the way it’s told turns this into a modern day fairy tale, something I would love to watch with my children one day when they’re a bit older.

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