richardthinks (richardthinks) wrote,

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

watching The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, it's remarkable how Jude Law looks like Rik Mayall.
Tom Waits devil: "I've never been into all that black magic stuff I just couldn't get the hang of it"'s everything I kinda feared it would be. Part of the success of Gilliam's films is the uncertain way they wobble through their stories: you're not quite sure where they're going or if they're going to get there. And then somehow - after Gilliam's challenged you to buy in with your suspension of disbelief and after he's destroyed the set and left the actors hanging in a stage space and reminded you that he's telling a story here - they do and you applaud the conjuring trick and later wonder what it was you actually saw (and eventually what it might have meant).

They work because they really might not.
And then there's Munchhausen (which delivers in spades but the story of the film-making - of its almost-not-being - is visible on the screen). And Lost in La Mancha that made me realise how Gilliam (and other film-makers? I dunno) really does work without any kind of safety net.

So here's this film where Heath Ledger plays the Hanged Man who has a trick to avoid dying. Again, it's a film made without a safety net, and in fact completed because a safety net was miraculously provided by onlookers. And it wobbles so violently that you're not quite sure what dance it's actually trying to do. And after it's fallen off the tightrope for the fourth time it's gone past brave and defiant and plucky, and it's bleeding all over the stage.

Is it good? Worth watching? Sure, in parts. The visuals are as brilliantly Gilliam as anything he's ever done. Its incoherence is more about pacing and how it sells its story than about any "mistakes" in the script or direction.
It offers a surfeit of whimsy. It makes the best of salvaged goods. But part of that best is the visible evidence of people desperately, physically holding the stage up, for a performance that might not be worth the effort. Which is also what the story's about. So maybe it's the best film it possibly could be.

Yesterday I finally watched Micmacs.

It's smart, self-assured, a little too in love with Jeunet's previous work and Gilbert Peyre's genius for stringpunk machining.

It does its job extremely well but... for a film all about salvaged goods it's awfully polished. It lacks the element of chance.
That I was just complaining about in Gilliam's film.
Tags: film
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