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Thursday, January 14, 2010


Mrs D and i went out to see Terry Gilliam's new movie, "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus," last night at the Carolina. It's one of those movies that i really want to see, "you have to go see this," but it's really not. Can't quite say why, either. There are several scenes (the monastery, the shoe fantasy) that are among the most visually stunning of all time, and Lily Cole as Valentina, the soon-to-be-sixteen year old daughter of the title character, is an eye magnet of the first rank. Throw in Christopher Plummer as the 1000 year old Dr. Parnassus, and Tom Waits, who some believe was born to play the part, as the Devil whose sole joy, it seems, comes from his ongoing wagers with the Doctor, and you have the makings of a stone classic.

Or not. Somehow the whole adds up to much less than the sum of its parts.

I'm not going to try to tease out why in the confines of a blog post. That's a conversation best had over a couple of beers with a few people who've seen the movie. I do want to wonder out loud, though, how much of this reaction can be tied to the nearly unintelligible sound in Cinema One at the Carolina. Hard to say, with just one viewing in one location, whether the problem is with the film, with the sound system in the theater, or whether it's just a mismatch in technology (maybe the movie's sound is mixed in 7.1 surround, and the theater was only carrying center channel information?) but the amount of concentration it took to follow any extended dialog in this film was straining. And it's not like there were competing sounds from adjacent theaters (no Avatar playing next door!) or from a disruptive audience (when the lights when down we were the only ones in the theater; two other couples arrived before the opening credits were finished). Whatever the cause, the effect was insurmountable. I wonder if anyone else has noticed this, and if there's a solution at hand?



  • We still havent seen it...but want to. I can still surmise where you're coming from, however. Gilliams movies have become increasingly more "creative", obtuse...difficult? but I've still felt better for having watched them.

    for instance, that last one Tideland...not an easy watch...difficult and uncomfortable in MANY instances. hell, i cant even think of many people I would outwardly recommend it to...but I thought it was amazing.

    By Blogger Vera, at 3:39 PM  

  • This is a movie I wouldn't mind owning just for the eye candy, but I'd put it on at a party with the sound down. The pacing, dialog and character development just were not there. And because some of the dialog was difficult to understand (which as Barry says may have been an audio problem, but I also though Waits just mumbled) and it was hard to follow, too.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:22 PM  

  • Tom Waits mumble? never! ; )

    By Blogger Vera, at 10:02 PM  

  • I watched it in Cinema 1 at the Carolina and absolutely loved it. It could have been an issue with that particular screening, of the film tech not having something in the sound set right. It's not a movie I would tell everyone to rush out and see, but that's because it's a very cerebral and subtle movie under an overload of visual eye candy (Helloooo, Lily Cole!). I can totally understand how some people would just be underwhelmed by it, but I think I was in the bulls-eye of the target audience.

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 10:50 PM  

  • I agree completely with your short review here. Love Gilliam, but what he produces often leaves me thinking, huh, did I miss something? But as for the sound, I didn't notice anything off in cinema 1, but I'm no sound engineer. I did notice that Heath Ledger's style of eating his words, which I thought an acting choice in Brokeback Mountain, one that I didn't like at all, was back in full force here, so I couldn't understand half of what he said. Yes, I'm speaking ill of the dead.Sorry, Heath.

    By Blogger The Gourmez, at 6:56 PM  

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