It took me a few days to recover from Terry Gilliam’s “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus.” The film is a wild ride, and a little surreal. Many of its twists and turns took me completely by surprise, and I felt like a little kid staring wide-eyed up at the screen. I was afraid to blink; I might have missed something.

In a nutshell, Dr. Parnassus and his completely unprofessional crew roam around in an ancient horse-drawn carriage that unfolds into a stage, performing whenever it strikes their fancy. Anyone who enters the mirror on stage enters the imagination of Dr. Parnassus who is, by the way, 1,000 years old. Oh, and he made a deal with the devil a few centuries earlier concerning his daughter’s soul. Got it?

I loved the culture clash that occurred when Parnassus & Co. would perform at a shopping center and all the ladies clutching their shopping bags would gawk at the dilapidated contraption. The contrast between the consumerism and efficiency of our hi-tech modern world and the messiness of human creativity was all over the film.  So many people, and not just women by the way, seek self-fulfillment through shopping and acquiring things; I wonder if this recession we’re in will put a dent in that mentality? Anyway, Gilliam’s film struck me as an ode to the messiness of a creative life, the way it might not seem logical or be easy, but incredible beauty and insight can come out of this great mess.

Did you know that Parnassus is a mountain in Greece? According to Greek mythology, it was home to Apollo, Dionysus and the Muses. Metaphorically and mythologically, Parnassus is known as the  home of music and poetry. In fact, Paris’ Montparnasse neighborhood got its name from the nickname “Mont Parnasse” because there were so many students reciting poetry on its streets back in the day.

Anyway, “Brazil” is one of my favorite movies ever, so I knew this would be a good one, and I was right. See it on the big screen if you can.

You can listen to an interview with Tom Waits, who plays the devil in the film, here.


~ by Valerie Palmer on January 26, 2010.

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