There were plenty of pictures from the Imaginarium available on the internet, but I like women with swords, so this is the one you got.
On Sunday January 17 I went with some friends to see the movie The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. I was looking forward to it because with a title like that it had to be full of great visual treats and special effects. I knew nothing about the plot or the characters, and very little about the actors except that Heath Ledger, Johnny Dep, and Jude Law were all in it as the same character. So, I went with an open mind, prepared for a treat.
And I got a treat–no doubt about that. If you like gorgeous movies, you should definitely see this film. Twice.
And yet . . . and yet . . . and yet . . . I am troubled by this movie. I’m a simple kind of troll. I like my characters simple and clear cut. But the only simple character in the movie was the Devil, superbly played by Tom Waits. And even he seemed at cross purposes with himself.
There were so many Issues in the movie I hardly know where to start. Maybe I could just list the issues that I noticed, in no particular order:
Salvation, Story, Existence, True Love, Self Indulgence, Imagination, Truth vs. Illusion, Immortality, Atonement, Magic.
I could do a whole essay on any one of these themes in the movie, but I’d have to see it again to get my facts straight. I won’t be able to manage that soon. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t have a lot of free time, and there are lots of things competing for what time I do have. Maybe I’ll get to see it again when it comes to DVD.
So, let me just mention the one thing that bothered me the most. And that is that all of main characters were not only flawed, but rotten inside. Dr. Parnassus was a self-indulgent drunk. Valentina was a younger female version of him–beautiful but rotten. Tony was not only a liar, but a manipulator with only his own interests at heart. Percy was a supercilious snot. Even Anton was a whiny vindictive creep. The Devil was simply looking for another game–he didn’t want to beat Dr. Parnassus and claim his soul–he wanted to stretch out the torture and keep the game going. There was not a single admirable character in the movie. (Maybe the horse who pulled the wagon was admirable).
I can take flawed characters. I like tales of redemption just fine. But when all the sound and fury was over, it didn’t seem to me that anyone had been redeemed. In the long run, the movie gave me many visual treats, but it did not give me what I wanted emotionally, and therefore, I think it will be a failure.
But, at least it’s different. Go see this movie. It may be hard to find. It has limited distribution. I had to go to the biggest cineplex in Phoenix to see it. But make the effort. If you have any imagination of your own, it will be worth it.
Among other things, I’m a football fan. Not a huge fan–I don’t know the names of every quarterback and wide receiver in the NFL. I don’t know all the team records; I don’t collect football trading cards; I don’t participate in a fantasy league. But I try to keep up, and I watch a game every once in a while. I like to watch the Super Bowl. And, I can talk sports with people at work–it’s a harmless, non-political topic (most of the time).
A couple of months ago the Arizona Cardinals lost a game to the Tennessee Titans on the last play of the game. The Titans were behind and needed a touchdown to win. They moved over 90 yards to finally score with 4 seconds left. They won the game. It was then that I realized whose story I was watching. It was Tennessee’s story–the story of the underdog, the David who beats Goliath–an incredible come-from-behind victory in front of their home crowd. They needed that win. It was their story. It wasn’t Kurt Warner and the Cardinals story. We were Goliath. We were the bad guys who had to go down.
(On the following week Tennessee lost, knocking them out of the playoff chase, but it happened on the road. Their football story ended. They had already had their moment of glory for the year.)
Playoff time came. Arizona had to face Green Bay. Green Bay beat Arizona in the pre-season, and humiliated them at home the week before. Guess whose story it was this time. If you said Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals, you’d be right. Arizona won, 51 to45 in the highest scoring NFL playoff game ever. What is Arizona known for? High powered offense. It was our story–the fans needed this victory.
Last week the Cardinals moved into the second round of the playoffs against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. In New Orleans. After the Saints had lost the last three games in a row. Young quarterback Brees vs. old quarterback Warner–guess whose story it was. The Saints crushed the Cardinals 45 to 14. We had already had our story. Last week was the time for the young quarterbacks to shine.
That sets up next week’s showdown, because the other game of importance was Minnesota vs. Dallas. The old champion (Bret Favre) beat the middle of the line challenger (Tony Romo), and he beat him like a drum. Do you see the story building? That sets up a classic confrontation next Sunday of old champion vs. rising young hero. What story is being told here? Will it be Youth triumphs over Age? Or will it be The last triumph of the old champion?
Whose story is being told? Figure that out, and you’ll know who will win next week’s game.
In the AFC, the same thing is happening. A young hero is rising to the top in the form of Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets. He’s a rookie, but he’s in the finals, coming from behind to beat San Diego last week. Meanwhile, Peyton Manning, the old pro of Indianapolis humilated the Baltimore ravesn. Once again, we have the Young Hero against the Old Champion. Do you see a trend here? I do.
The story this year for the Superbowl is going to be Young Hero vs. Old Champion. Old people like me would like to see the old guys win. Younger people will be cheering for the upstarts.
I might be wrong. I have no crystal ball. All I have is a feeling that stories are being told here–old stories from the dawn of time. There are three possibilities for which archtypal story will be played out in the superbowl. It could be “The Battle of the Kings”. That would be Favre vs. Manning. It could be the “Young and the Strong”. That would be Sanchez vs. Brees.
But I’m thinking that as the second decade of the new century gets under way, the story we’ll see is “Youth vs. Age”. And the decade is young, so I’m betting that Youth will be the winner this year. Sanchez or Brees, superbowl champions.
(The preceeding essay was just the wild ravings of a hedge wizard with too much time on his hands and the all too human ability to see causality and master plans when no such relationships actually exist.)