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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Pam and I saw this last night. Certainly not light on ideas, and certainly not without its moments of visual flair, it's far from the best from director Terry Gilliam. The symbols weren't abundantly clear to me (not that I demand obviousness, but I don't love scratching my head at the climax either) and the theme was muddled. Was this a film about storytelling? About imagination? A tragedy about making bargains with the Devil? There's a furious pace to the performances and the movie itself, and somehow, it all left me a bit cold.

To be clear: this is still head and shoulders above most movies you'll see. It's Terry Gilliam, and even his misfires are worth engaging with. For example: Tideland is nearly unwatchable. It's grotesque and ugly. It's impossible not to respect the sheer force of will it takes to get a movie like that made. But it doesn't mean I would ever watch it again.

Parnassus is infinitely more accessible and entertaining. It's just messy, rushed. There's fun stuff all over it, but I couldn't help but feel there was a better film lurking underneath.

It's nowhere near as off-tone as Brothers Grimm. Closer, maybe, to Baron Munchausen, which looks cool and has grand designs, but has a sort of unsatisfying finish.

So...worth checking out just because it's Gilliam, and has Heath Ledger's final performance (yes I do think he was a phenomenal performer) and there's not much out there that's like it. But it's not the return to form I'd hoped for.


joshcon80 said...

Heath dies mid production, if I remember correctly, so it took a lot of quick thinking and a lot of trickery to finish.

isaac butler said...

I have nothing but love for ole Munchie. I love the ending, and the deliberate incoherence of the main character dying and then coming back to life and winning a war simply because the narrator (who is also the resurrected character) wanted it to. It's like gloriously fucking crazy.

Ian Thal said...

Whatever the flaws, the film (like many of Gilliam's) is ultimately a celebration of the redemptive power of imagination which is no mean feat.