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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus



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#1 of 23 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted April 26 2010 - 08:15 PM

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The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus


 

Studio: Sony Pictures Classics

Year: 2010

Rated: PG-13

Program Length: 122 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p

Languages: English, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA; Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, English, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish

 

The Program

 

This film means a lot to me, and I’m not sure what all those things are, because it’s been so complex, so emotional, so nightmarish, so wonderful, so beautiful, so horrible, so everything. – Terry Gilliam

 

Whether you love or hate his movies, few would deny that Terry Gilliam is one of the most original and inventive directors currently making feature films. In his introduction to The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Gilliam explains that he had reached a point in his career where he wanted to make a film which was totally original but also represented “a compendium of the things that had always been either in my films or films that I wanted to make…Something more playful.” He and co-writer Charles McKeown (who had worked with Gilliam on Brazil  and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen) came up with a yarn about a traveling sideshow headed up by Doctor Parnussus (Christopher Plummer). Parnassus is said to be a thousand years old and the possessor of mystical powers. The other members of his troupe include his 15-year-old daughter, Valentina (Lily Cole), a young man named Anton (Andrew Caldwell), and Percy (Verne Troyer), a wise but curmudgeonly dwarf. They travel the streets of London in a horse-drawn contraption which serves as their home and which unfolds into a stage for their shows. They put on their productions outside of pubs, and for their efforts they often receive more derision than cash.

 

Forced to flee from the site of one of their shows after a brawl breaks out, they stop on a bridge when Valentina and Anton spot a man (Heath Ledger, in his last acting role) hanging from a noose. They manage to save his life, and they later learn that his name is Tony. Tony has a dark secret and was left to die by some very dangerous men, but he also has undeniable charm and immediately comes up with ideas to make the show more successful. It turns out that Doctor Parnassus has a dark secret of his own. He is being pursued by the devil, in the form of Mr. Nick (Tom Waits), who is determined to collect on an old debt. Many years ago Doctor Parnassus made a pact with Mr. Nick, whereby he received immortality and fantastic powers in exchange for handing over his first-born child to the devil when that child reached the age of 16. Valentina’s 16th birthday is just a few days off.

 

What follows is a wild, fantastic, unpredictable and totally implausible series of events, some of which are supposed to be real and some of which are flights of surreal imagination. However, the implausibility scarcely matters, because Gilliam has designed images which are so spectacular and breathtaking that suspension of disbelief is automatic. Along the way there are appearances by Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell, but to explain how they fit into the story would be to give away too much of the plot.

 

Plummer, who has been a reliable and admired actor for nearly sixty years, is perfect as the mysterious and deeply troubled Parnassus. Heath Ledger tragically died during a break in filming while the production was being shifted from London to Vancouver, British Columbia. Gilliam fortunately came up with a clever approach which allowed him to finish the film with the Ledger footage which had already been filmed. Tom Waits is excellent as Mr. Nick, a Satan who is more reasonable and likeable than one would expect. Lily Cole is just beginning her career, and she has a screen presence which leads me to believe that we will be seeing much more of her in the future.

 

Roger Ebert has written that when he saw The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus at Cannes he was baffled, but he enjoyed it anyway. I suppose that is due to the fact that with Terry Gilliam’s films the ride is always more important than the story, and this ride is an entertaining and exciting one.

 

The Video

 

This is a typically superb 1.85:1 1080p Blu-ray transfer from Sony. Within the doctor’s imaginarium we see bright and intense primary colors, and also a sense of depth which is almost three-dimensional. The street scenes in London mostly occur at night, and they are enhanced by deep and solid black levels and very good shadow detail. The image is consistently sharp and is a pleasure to view. The framing appears to be accurate. The CGI and animation are seamlessly integrated with the live action. I saw no evidence of digital artifacts, excessive DNR, edge enhancement or other anomalies, and the overall appearance is satisfyingly film-like.

 

The Audio

 

The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is excellent. There are enough explosions and other loud noises to keep the subwoofer busy, and the surround channels are used effectively to convey ambient sounds and provide a sense of immediacy. The film includes an excellent and evocative musical soundtrack which is played by The Budapest Film Orchestra, and it is given a pleasing and expansive soundstage. The dialog is most confined to the center channel and is clear and understandable. For those who need them, the white subtitles are easy to read.

 

The Supplements

 

There are a number of entertaining and informative extras on this Blu-ray disc.

 

In addition to the introduction by Terry Gilliam which is referred to above, the director also recorded a commentary track which provides many insights into the production of the film. He also discusses the changes which had to be made in order to complete the film after the death of Heath Ledger.

 

Also included is one deleted scene which can be viewed with our without commentary by the director. The scene was eliminated very early on and the CGI is very much unfinished.

 

“Behind the Mirror” is a short featurette in which Terry Gilliam talks about the genesis of the story. Christopher Plummer, Lily Cole, Tom Waits and Andrew Garfield have an opportunity to discuss their characters, and co-producer Amy Gilliam (Terry’s daughter) talks about how gratifying it was to complete what was a very difficult production.

 

“The Imaginarium of Terry Gilliam” goes into more detail about the director’s vision for the film. Co-producer Samuel Hadida talks about how well Gilliam works with his actors and how much they enjoy making his films. The principal actors (Ledger excepted, of course) give Gilliam praise for allowing them to try different things. Also included are insights from the visual effects supervisor, the costume designer and other members of the technical team. This featurette has a running time of 6 ½ minutes.

 

“Building the Monastery” is a look at the design of the most elaborate set made for the film, from the original conception to the finished product. It provides interesting details about how the set was created and runs for about 7 minutes.

 

Also included is a multi-angle progression sequence of a scene which allows the viewer to toggle among storyboards, blue screen footage, visual effects and the final product.  

 

“Heath Ledger and Friends” is a touching tribute to the late actor. Gilliam, the producers, Christopher Plummer, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Tom Waits, Lily Cole, Andrew Garfield and Verne Troyer all talk about their respect and admiration for Ledger.

 

“Heath Ledger Wardrobe Test” is two minutes of dialog-free footage of the actor trying on various costumes. It can be played with optional commentary by Gilliam.

 

Another featurette consists of segments from a 2007 interview with Heath Ledger which was done for a radio program several weeks prior to the beginning of the filming of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

 

“Doctor Parnassus Around the World” includes footage of the film’s premiere at Cannes, in London, in Rome, and extended footage of the Tokyo premiere.

 

“Cast and Crew Presentation on Stage” is a featurette in which most of the principal cast and crew appear on stage at the London premiere. It has a running time of approximately 8 minutes.

 

“The Artwork of Doctor Parnassus” is a 4-minute discussion by Terry Gilliam about how he drew storyboards as he and his co-writer came up with ideas for the film.

 

Finally, Sony has included the original theatrical trailer and previews for the following films: Dear John, Not the Messiah, The Young Victoria, Nine, Extraordinary Measures, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, An Education, It Might Get Loud, Whatever Works, Coco Before Chanel, Soul Power, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, A Single Man, The Road, and Chloe.

 

The supplements are in high definition and English stereo (with subtitles in English, Spanish and Portuguese). Movie IQ and BD-Live features will be available on the release date.

 

The Packaging

 

The single disc comes in a standard Blu-ray keep case.

 

The Final Analysis

 

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a typically idiosyncratic Terry Gilliam film, with a somewhat convoluted and non-linear plot, but also featuring superb acting and extraordinary images which really come alive on Blu-ray. Sadly, it also features the final performance in the acting career of Heath Ledger. It also has the potential for (and may even demand) repeat viewing. For fans of Gilliam and the actors, it is highly recommended. Those who are usually put off by Gilliam’s filmmaking may want to consider giving it a rental.

 

Equipment used for this review:

 

Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player

Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specification by Gregg Loewen

Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver

BIC Acoustech speakers

Interconnects: Monster Cable

 

Release Date: Rich Gallagher


#2 of 23 OFFLINE   cineMANIAC

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Posted April 27 2010 - 12:30 AM

After viewing a trailer for this I knew I was going to blind-buy it on street date and was ecstatic when I snagged an early copy only to discover the film wouldn't play. The usual trailers and warning menus played fine until the main menu appears, then nothing happens when you hit play. (I'm using Oppo's new BDP-83). I lent the disc to a buddy and he reported it played fine in his Panasonic. If this is a firmware issue, why do the trailers and pre-movie junk work but not the film?


 

RIP Roberto Gomez Bolanos. 


#3 of 23 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted April 27 2010 - 07:06 AM

A thousand-year-old guy with a 15-year-old daughter?  I'll have what he's having!


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#4 of 23 OFFLINE   Dick

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Posted April 27 2010 - 07:21 AM

On what dvd or blu-ray might we find the trailer for this movie?



#5 of 23 OFFLINE   cineMANIAC

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Posted April 27 2010 - 08:00 AM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick View Post

On what dvd or blu-ray might we find the trailer for this movie?


2012 I think (this is the latest Sony BD I have)
 

RIP Roberto Gomez Bolanos. 


#6 of 23 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted April 27 2010 - 01:49 PM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick 

On what dvd or blu-ray might we find the trailer for this movie?

The Blu-ray discs of AN EDUCATION and BROKEN EMBRACES both have the Parnassus trailer. It's also on YouTube:




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#7 of 23 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted April 27 2010 - 02:05 PM

Just because I think it's so cool, I'm going to post again that the HTF's own Scott McGillivray posted HERE that he had a bit part in this film.  /img/vbsmilies/htf/smile.gif

There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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#8 of 23 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted April 27 2010 - 05:36 PM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Frezon 

Just because I think it's so cool, I'm going to post again that the HTF's own Scott McGillivray posted HERE that he had a bit part in this film. 
I didn't realize that, but now that I have looked him up I see that he was involved in one of the funniest bits in the movie.

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#9 of 23 OFFLINE   Edwin-S

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Posted April 27 2010 - 05:54 PM

17 trailers on this disc but they couldn't include the one for this movie. I skipped this movie in the theatre because of the mostly negative reviews, but the trailer was the one thing that almost made me go and see it. Does Gilliam cut his own trailers? Because I thought the one for this movie was actually pretty good.
"You bring a horse for me?" "Looks like......looks like we're shy of one horse." "No.......You brought two too many."

#10 of 23 OFFLINE   Scott McGillivray

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Posted April 28 2010 - 08:40 AM

Cant wait to see it on Blu Ray.  Too bad my little part got edited so poorly.  We worked like crazy for that little song and dance number and rather than show us, they cut away to reaction shots etc.  Oh well...it was still a lot of fun.  Jude Law was a really nice guy and Terry Gilliam is pretty much exactly what you would expect.  A sort of kind, nutty, genius. 
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#11 of 23 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted April 28 2010 - 12:55 PM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Edwin-S 

17 trailers on this disc but they couldn't include the one for this movie. I skipped this movie in the theatre because of the mostly negative reviews, but the trailer was the one thing that almost made me go and see it. Does Gilliam cut his own trailers? Because I thought the one for this movie was actually pretty good.
The original theatrical trailer is included in the extras.


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#12 of 23 OFFLINE   Edwin-S

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Posted April 28 2010 - 02:46 PM

So it is. I missed it when I read your review. More than once actually. /img/vbsmilies/htf/redface.gif
"You bring a horse for me?" "Looks like......looks like we're shy of one horse." "No.......You brought two too many."

#13 of 23 OFFLINE   Richard Gallagher

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Posted April 28 2010 - 02:51 PM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Edwin-S 

So it is. I missed it when I read your review. More than once actually. /img/vbsmilies/htf/redface.gif
In fairness to you, it's almost hidden. I should have given that fact its own sentence. Sony has been doing a pretty good job lately of including the trailer for the feature on its Blu-rays.


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#14 of 23 OFFLINE   Doug Otte

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Posted April 29 2010 - 01:53 AM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott McGillivray View Post

Cant wait to see it on Blu Ray.  Too bad my little part got edited so poorly.  We worked like crazy for that little song and dance number and rather than show us, they cut away to reaction shots etc.  Oh well...it was still a lot of fun.  Jude Law was a really nice guy and Terry Gilliam is pretty much exactly what you would expect.  A sort of kind, nutty, genius. 
What a memorable experience...thanks for sharing.

I didn't get to see the film in the theatres, but I went ahead and bought it based upon the reviews comparing it to Gilliam's earlier work.

The last movie of his that I immediately enjoyed was Baron Munchausen.  I now revere 12 Monkeys, but it took years and multiple viewings for it to sink in.  Nothing after 12 Monkeys has impressed me very much.

Doug


#15 of 23 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted May 15 2010 - 09:13 AM

Finally got to watch this film on Blu-ray.


I have to admit I was somewhat afraid that it would

go completely over my head.  Gilliam tends to be hit

or miss in telling a completely comprehensible story.

However, I was pleasantly surprised that this film was

very easy to follow and overly entertaining.


Spoiler.  Please read if you have seen the film:



When Heath Ledger died I remember reading much

about this film and the prospects of it ever getting

completed.  There is a lot of footage with Ledger,

and he appears through more than 50% of the film.

It looks as if the fantasy sequences were the last

to be lensed so it was those that were affected by

his death.  Gilliam did a very smart thing with the

story by establishing the fact that once the character

entered the fantasy world his facial features would

change.  This allowed him to use Depp, Law and

Farrell without the viewer disbelieving the replacements.



It works beautifully.


Really enjoyed Parnassus.  I recommend you give

it a try.


 

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#16 of 23 Guest__*

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Posted July 01 2010 - 11:46 AM

hello luis

i have bought and returned each of three copies of the movie, "the imaginarium of dr parnassus".

all three played the preview/trailers fine.

when it came to the main movie feature menu, nothing happened, could not play, could not make any selections

i had pressed stop and ejected the bluray disc numerous times for the three copies i had purchased

at home here we have the sony model number BDP-N460.

i will do more surfing to see if there are issues with that particular player.

so far this is the first bluray movie we have encounetered with that does not play

thank you

wesley



#17 of 23 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted July 01 2010 - 02:12 PM

^ If you had three copies that did the same thing like that, it sounds like you need a firmware update for your player.



#18 of 23 OFFLINE   cineMANIAC

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Posted July 02 2010 - 04:47 AM




Originally Posted by Wesley Torricer 

hello luis

i have bought and returned each of three copies of the movie, "the imaginarium of dr parnassus".

all three played the preview/trailers fine.

when it came to the main movie feature menu, nothing happened, could not play, could not make any selections

i had pressed stop and ejected the bluray disc numerous times for the three copies i had purchased

at home here we have the sony model number BDP-N460.

i will do more surfing to see if there are issues with that particular player.

so far this is the first bluray movie we have encounetered with that does not play

thank you

wesley



Yeah, my player just needed an update. It was my first time experiencing a firmware problem so I wasn't sure what the heck I was supposed to do. I returned one disc only to have the second disc not play so I finally contacted the manufacturer (Oppo) and they sent me a CD-R. People shouldn't have to go through hassles like this to watch movies.


 

RIP Roberto Gomez Bolanos. 


#19 of 23 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted July 22 2010 - 08:57 AM

Oh, how I enjoyed this movie!  I borrowed the DVD from the library but might add the BD to my collection, as I can see myself re-watching.


I found the story to be (almost) entirely coherent, though -- not sure what trouble it gave Ebert (and others).


To Ron's comment:


The way the replacement actors were incorporated was brilliant -- Johnny Depp, in the old woman's imagination, was "just as I'd pictured you" and Colin Farrell, in Valentina's imagination, came from the magazine photo that she loved.  I'll have to watch again to make sure, but I think Jude Law was Tony's own imagination of himself.  Only in a Gilliam film. . .


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#20 of 23 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted July 22 2010 - 09:06 AM

This is a film that has been frustrating me in that I have been looking for a good sale on this Blu-ray--either new or used and haven't been able to find a used copy yet (or that great a sale price).  And I look almost every time I go near a store.

I want to see Scott's song & dance (along with the rest of the film)!


But I'm a patient sort...sometimes!  /img/vbsmilies/htf/biggrin.gif


There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


HTF Rules | HTF Mission Statement | Father of the Bride

Dieting with my Dog & Heart to Heart/Hand in Paw by Peggy Frezon