Gilliam’s Parnasus / Burton’s Alice

Well, here are a couple of disappointments. I don’t suppose I had very high hopes for Alice, but I didn’t think it would be quite as boring as this. In a movie that is about little more than spectacle, Burton managed to show us nothing we haven’t seen millions of times before, in his movies and every other adaptation of Alice.

The highlights were Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, and to a lesser extent Crispin Glover as the Jack of Hearts or Knaves or something. This was every bit as tedious as Burton’s Planet of the Apes and I wonder why he keeps going for these seemingly pointless remakes. Is there really such a lack of original scripts out there? I mean, there’s a good 20+ years worth of kids who grew up immersed in Burton’s non-threatening dreams. Some of them must have becomes scriptwriters who have risen to the point where they can pitch something his way?
I miss the warmth of Ed Wood or the insanity of Mars Attacks.

Terry Gilliam’s Imaginarium of Dr. Parnasus had some measure of originality to it, but was an unfocused, poorly acted, confusing mess. Heath Ledger has yet to impress me with his acting. Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell at least seemed to be awake. I’m not entirely sure that Christopher Plummer didn’t die in pre-production and that Gilliam just made a marionette out of his corpse, waving his hand here and there and mumbling some gibberish.

Like Alice there were two performances here that are worth watching. One is Lily Cole’s. I remember being amazed at how Gilliam took the beauty of Uma Thurman in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and just cranked it up to a ridiculous degree, so that she seemed almost post-human, evolved into another species. He does the same here. Lily Cole is gorgeous, and alive and acts, and reacts, and does all the things that someone acting in a movie is supposed to do. And Tom Waits as the devil seems like a no-brainer. He’s great.

But I cared nothing about any of these characters in either movie. I watched them months ago, and tried to write something then, but they are difficult to get excited enough to actually think very much about them.

I’ll at least use the opportunity to suggest going back to watch Tideland, Gilliam’s terribly reviewed previous movie, which was easily one of my favorites of the year. Jeff Bridges delivers a better performance as a corpse in Tideland than Ledger did as a quasi-live person in Parnasus.

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Mark Mauer likes movies cuz the pictures move, and the screen talks like it's people. He once watched Tales from the Gilmli Hostpial three times in a single night, and is amazed DeNiro made good movies throughout the 80s, only to screw it all up in the 90s and beyond. He has met both Udo Kier and Werner Herzog, and he knows an Irishman who can quote at length from the autobiography of Klaus Kinksi.

One thought on “Gilliam’s Parnasus / Burton’s Alice”

  1. Sadly, Burton’s film, which I haven’t seen, made a billion dollars worldwide. There will be more of this crap before we’re through with Dr. Frankenweenie.

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