The Imaginarium Of Dr Parnassus is not Terry Gilliam’s best film. Not by a long shot. It’s not as good as some Monty Python episodes, and certainly not in the same league as The Life Of Brian or The Holy Grail. It’s not even close to 12 Monkeys, Brazil or Time Bandits. Actually, I’m not quite so sure about that one – it’s been a long time, and I do need to revisit it to discover if it’s as good as I remember. But the joy of this film is just that – it’s joy. It’s film-making to the full, with vision, passion, energy and imagination as raw fuel.
Watching it helped me put my finger on something – that as many good films as I’ve seen this year, most of them are based on or inspired by something. This, though, was born of an original and personal vision, hammered out on the anvil of love and tragedy (isn’t that always the case somehow and somewhere with Gilliam?). It’s far from perfect; at times it’s all over the place and out of control. The parts that shouldn’t work, do – how do you solve the death midway through filming of the film’s most gifted and charismatic presence? The well publicised solution works perfectly. The parts that look like refugees from Python’s cutting room floor are memorable but don’t quite fit – dancing policemen, for example. Does it matter? Yes, but no. Energy, passion and vision carries us through, and the performers all ply their trade with heart and soul and aplomb.
What’s all this worth? Compare and contrast as follows. Joe Wright’s films (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, The Solist) may mostly win better reviews and more awards, but trust me when I say that for all it’s flaws, this is the film you will remember with a smile ten years on late at night, struggling for sleep. The next morning you’ll find a cheap copy, slide it into your next-gen DVD player and be transported by a flawed work of vaulting ambition to shame the more worthy and feted. See it where it belongs while you can.