Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus screened out of competition at Cannes a few hours ago. How is it? Well, if the first reviews are correct, it’s probably the best one could hope for from a Gilliam movie featuring Verne Troyer and Tom Waits (as the devil) that was nearly scrapped in the wake of Heath Ledger’s death, but later revived after three other actors agreed to complete his role: terrific.
Total Film pans it politely:
“Heath Ledger’s final film has screened at Cannes — and sad to say, it’s not the strongest swansong you could hope for … The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus casts the late actor in a shady, slippery role that gives him only intermittent chance to shine. But then this isn’t so much an actors’ movie, the biggest success being art direction that conjures memorable flights of fancy in the face of a clearly limited FX budget.”
IndieWire’s Eric Kohn is slightly less kind:
“Marred by shoddy special effects and half-formed fantastical conceits, Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus has the feeling of a comic fantasia desperately seeking to find its rhythm. Nearly abandoned after the sudden death of leading man Heath Ledger prior to completing production in January of last year, the final result reflects the frantic cobbling together of missing pieces.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s Ray Bennett was similarly unimpressed:
“A carnival show with a mirror to the imagination allows Gilliam to employ his remarkable gift for imagery but the worlds he creates will not take the breath away of children or grownups. The combined star power involved will generate a plentiful boxoffice return but the film is not intelligent enough nor silly or grotesque enough to become a lasting favorite.”
Even so, that Parnassus — which apparently introduces Ledger’s character in a scene in which he’s hanging from a bridge with a noose around his neck — is still without a U.S. buyer seems crazy, since we can’t really imagine there are people who aren’t at least a little curious about this thing.