Thursday, January 21, 2010

Terry Gilliam Gets it Right

I liked the Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, although Terry Gilliam is far from my favorite director; for all his general flash and opulent imagery, he cannot tell a story, really, and he likes to crowd the frame. His movies tend be like a shut-in's apartment, cluttered with piles of undifferentiated stuff.Many appreciate his willingness to toss in everybit of historical aracana into his heaping constructions of detail, but this the very thing that stops me, nearly every moment , from appreciating the absurdity he purports to advance. Sticking through the impressive messes that are Brazil or Baron Van Munchhausen aren't without their rewards, but Gilliam's desire to fill each inch of his frames with his patisches is ,to use the former analogy, like making a nervous path through so much precariously balanced deitritus in order to get to the kitchen, or the bathroom. Simply stated, you get impatient for the payoff, if not the point. Heath Ledger's death, though, had an upside side, since it seemed to force Gilliam to stream line his storyline and create a structure justifying the additions of Jude Law, Johnny Depp and Collin Farrell to replace the sadly departed Ledger. Without giving too much away, it works more often than not. And, as usual, there is plenty of cool imagery to wrap your senses in.

I equate clutter with flash, and it's the case that Gilliam really does not allow us much time in his films to allow his designs to register or resonate. It's the kind of flash one means when they discuss carnival game decoration--lots of cheap prizes dressing up a joint (I am an ex-carnie, after all) meant to attract attention, not intelligence. I... See More often wished there was less ebullience and more discretion in his designs; his best visual ideas goto waste. In "Imaginarium", they do not, as the tragedy with Ledger forced Gilliam to limit his range and so lend his story a logic that made sense in the terms of the fantasy he was operating within; he paid attention to his idea and didn't overshoot it.

1 comment:

  1. I am often diammetrically opposed to your takes on artists (Kerouac, Conan O'Brien, etc.), but on Gilliam as director, I think you hit the nail on the head. "Flashy clutter", aptly put. I was going to skip "The Imaginarium" as Gilliam has always missed the mark for me, but only just. The exception out of the movies of his I've seen is the tremendous "12 Monkeys". Now, on second thought, I think I'll give "The Imaginarium" a chance, also out of respect for his "Monty Python" days. It's odd to me that he was in some ways the least funny of the comedy troupe, and yet in some ways the most funny. He was at the same time the least memorable, and yet he was the cohesion of it all. Gilliam, still unfathomable.


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