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Director Terry Gilliam has built his career and reputation as a visionary by making unconventional films that tend to stray from the mainstream. THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS ($35) is certainly no exception. Undeniably, THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS is something of a loopy fantasy film- one that features numerous flawed characters, especially its heroes, not to mention having a villain who isn’t quite so bad- even if he just happens to be the devil. Of course, when one considers the cinematic beauty of THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS, one could venture to say that his may be Gilliam’s most fully realized film, thus indicating that the technology of special effects may have finally caught up to filmmaker’s wild imagination.

The premise of THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS follows what appears to be a tattered traveling theatrical troupe, which is lead by one Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer). As you might have guessed, appearances can be deceiving. The façade of the theater troupe hides the fact that a long time ago Doctor Parnassus won a wager with the Devil, aka Mr. Nick (Tom Waits), which granted Parnassus immortality. In a side deal, Mr. Nick restored Parnassus’ youth; but that deal came with a catch- any child Parnassus might father would become the property of Mr. Nick on the child’s sixteenth birthday. Like clockwork, Mr. Nick comes calling just a few days before Parnassus' daughter Valentina (Lily Cole) is to turn sixteen. About the same time as the reappearance of Mr. Nick, our traveling theatrical troupe rescues a man named Tony (Heath Ledger), whom they find under a bridge, swinging by his neck. After a very short recovery, Tony starts working as the troupe’s new barker, and their fortunes seem to improve. Of course, Mr. Nick has his own agenda concerning Tony, and as such, decides to offer Doctor Parnassus a new wager, one that would allow him to keep his daughter. To say anymore about the plot would spoil the surprises contained in THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS. The cast of THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS also features Verne Troyer, Andrew Garfield, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has made THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. There is no denying that this is another wonderful looking 1080p presentation from Sony, which remains quite film-like with its mixture of film and digital elements. Image sharpness, depth and dimensionality are very strong performers; although some sequences that are heavily digital can appear a smidgen diffuse. Still, the picture is quite dimensional, in addition to offering a wonderful level of fine image detail and texturing. Colors are usually strongly rendered and produce attractive flesh tones, but the color intensity can shift from a bleaker real world to a more vivid imaginary realm. Blacks are deep, whites are crisp and clean, plus there is smooth contrast and a fairly healthy dose of shadow detail. The elements from which THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS has been mastered demonstrate virtually no imperfections. The image also demonstrates a modest amount of grain that maintains a nicely film-like appearance.

THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Overall, this is a very well engineered soundtrack that makes excellent use of all the discrete channels. Sure, some passages contained THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS play in the talky dramatic mode, with much of the sound being localized front and center; however, the fantasy sequences provide a terrific sense of engagement, not to mention being quite lively. Of course, the track is always wonderfully atmospheric, with even the quieter moments seeming wonderfully nuanced. Fidelity is very strong, offering full-bodied music and convincing effects. The bass channel provides excellent reinforcement, to the sound effect and is especially capable during the film’s more outlandish moments. Voices have a warm, natural quality, plus the film’s dialogue is always completely understandable. A Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is also encoded onto the disc, as is a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel track. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc’s interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with director Terry Gilliam, who also provides a Film Introduction. Featurettes and other programs include the following: Behind The Mirror (three minutes), The Imaginarium Of Terry Gilliam (seven minutes), Building The Monastery (seven minutes), The Drunk Multi-Angle Progression Sequence (two minutes), Heath Ledger And Friends (six minutes), Heath Ledger Wardrobe Test With Optional Video Commentary From Director Terry Gilliam (two minutes). , Interview With Heath Ledger (three minutes), Doctor Parnassus Around The World (six minutes), Cast & Crew Presentation On Stage (eight minutes) and The Artwork Of Doctor Parnassus (four minutes). A Deleted Scene with optional commentary closes out the standard supplements. THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player). Sony’s MovieIQ feature is available through BD-Live, which provides the viewer access to a continuously updated database of additional information about the film, its cast, crew and soundtrack, as well as other trivia.

While THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS may have marked Heath Ledger’s final screen appearance, the film remains Terry Gilliam’s show, and it the director’s undeniable talents that make this a rewarding motion picture experience. The Blu-ray presentation is really terrific and certainly the best way to enjoy THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS at home. Recommended.


The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus [Blu-ray] (2008)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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