8:00 PM, 17th April, 2010
Betty Boop (the first human cartoon star) dreams herself into Blunderland – a take-off of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland. But as made by the Fleischer studios, Disney’s main and very different rival in the 1930s, Wonderland is much weirder – a world of demented urban nightclubs.
Print Courtesy of the National Film and Sound Archive
8:07 PM, 17th April, 2010
Famously this is Heath Ledger’s last movie, the one he didn’t get to complete. Though it’s devastating that we lost a truly remarkable and courageous artist so young, don’t come and see the movie just for Ledger. The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus offers so much more.
This is the story of Doctor Parnassus, his daughter and the motley but loyal crew he’s gathered over the years. Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) operates a travelling show giving select audience members the opportunity to experience something a little bit different. The Doctor has a unique gift: the ability to allow others to step into their own imaginations. It’s into this world that Tony (Ledger) stumbles.
The meeting of Tony and Doctor Parnassus is mutually beneficial – Tony has lost his memory and the Doctor is hiding a secret. Centuries ago, the Doctor made a pact with the Devil (Tom Waits) which ultimately leads to the Devil showing up to claim the Doctor’s daughter (Lily Cole). Before this can occur, however, Doctor Parnassus and the Devil make another pact and Tony seeks to help the Doctor while trying to figure out who he is.
As Ledger was unable to finish the film, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell all step in to play Tony. I was surprised how seamless the transitions between the actors were – all three play the role of Tony with great success. But to my mind the standout actor in this movie is Cole. When she’s on screen you simply can’t take your eyes off her.
Imaginarium is a visually stunning, Terry Gilliam-directed movie. Come and see it for Ledger if you must, but you’ll walk away with much more.
10:24 PM, 17th April, 2010
Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” is a deeply weird book. The world will never see its like again because, ever since Sigmund Freud, we’re all too frightened of the possibility that someone, somewhere, is peering into our subconscious minds. Read any of Lewis Carroll’s work – some, like “Sylvie and Bruno”, are three times as bizarre as “Alice” – and you’ll realise it doesn’t even occur to him that someone might try to psycho-analyse him: the very concepts he’d need to think that, do not yet exist.
Jan Svankmajer, the last flowering of a long line of Czech puppeteers, is probably the only one of the dozen or so directors who’ve made Alice into a movie to fully embrace the weirdness, and then some. In his version, Alice wanders through an old Czech house (which is a surreal experience in itself: in the 1980s, by the look of things, Czech houses were a curious mix of fairytale-quaint and communist-era-austere), and all the familiar figures come to life out of whatever’s lying around – anything from socks to stuffed dead animals to decomposing meat.
It’s almost a nightmare. All that’s keeping the nightmare at bay, in fact, is Alice herself, who remains perfectly calm and passive, come what may; if the walls melted, I doubt she’d even blink. All the same, this is not a version to take children to. Seriously. Even the 1976 porn version would probably be a better choice.