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A little cheese and a little whine

Film Log: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Details here.

I fell in love with this film after about ninety seconds and never really stopped being in love with it. So let me begin by pointing out what I think are it’s three flaws. First, if you’re not familiar with the myth of Mount Parnassus, you’re going to be at a disadvantage from the get-go. Second, the narrative unfolds rather like the sort of stories your parents make up for you when you’re a child – there’s no signposting, the characters’ motivations aren’t very clear, a lot of stuff just sort of happens. And third, while the story does have a satisfying conclusion, it isn’t really clear what it’s about. These last two add to the fairy-tale feel of the whole piece, and didn’t spoil my enjoyment, but I imagine they would drive some people up the wall.

Visually, the film is an absolute delight. The juxtaposition of Parnassus’ travelling carnival float, a vision of fairytale Victoriana, with the more run-down and prosaic parts of contemporary London owes something to Gaiman’s Neverwhere but is more reminiscent of Time Bandits in its unapologetic mixture of visual languages. At the same time, the surreal interior of the Imaginarium itself gave the makers the opportunity to create a strange and beautiful alternate world, and they siezed it with both hands.

Ledger and Plummer both deliver fine performances, clearly enjoying the quirkiness of the piece, but neither hogs the spotlight, and this allows the more junior Garfield and Cole the chance to shine. Even the presence of luminaries like Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Johnny Depp doesn’t upset the balance of what is, primarily, a love story between the two younger characters.

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Filed under: Film + TV

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My Bookshelf

The Golden Bough
The Value of Nothing
The Fire
A Wolf at the Table
Devil Bones

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