Just My Imagination: Introduction

Posted by on Dec 20, 2011 in Just My Imagination | 0 comments

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“I believe in everything until it’s disproved.
So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons.
It all exists, even if it’s in your mind.
Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares
aren’t as real as the here and now?”
– John Lennon

Perhaps no other filmmaker has been more concerned with the imagination than Terry Gilliam. Tim Burton is pretty close, but of course several of his projects are remakes or retreads. But Gilliam is like the Dr. Seuss of cinema, serving as a true auteur from the writing and directing to the occasional animation, costume design, and producing. This has held true from his beginnings with Monty Python to his most recent film, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. I would argue that Gilliam’s most famous films (Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and Time Bandits) are a trilogy concerning the imagination during the different stages of life (middle-age, old age, and childhood, respectively). Even his lesser projects (The Fisher King, Brothers Grimm, and Tideland) have obvious connections to imagination.

Of course, Gilliam is more famous for his behind-the-scenes disasters mid-production – like going way over budget and past the due date, or significant delays and pulled funding, and even the death of a star. Often this lends itself to the flawed storyline and occasional sloppiness accompanied by phenomenal visuals and, ever-present at the core, a message about the imagination.

In Tasha Robinson’s AV Club review of Imaginarium, she posits that Gilliam infused a bit of self-reflexivity in the title role, “a tragically ineffectual character, with a ramshackle aesthetic and a hopelessly square message about the magical powers of imagination. … In a real sort of way, Gilliam is Parnassus, carrying his tatterdemalion show forward from year to year and trying to get people to pay attention, and the mingled sense of bitterness and hope in his story makes this whole crazed fantasy into something far more real.”

It’s telling that a man who has spent his life showing us the power of imagination has grown bitter and weary, going so far as to allege (in Imaginarium) that no one cares for imagination anymore. But my bet is that Gilliam will be one day recognized as ahead of his time, a true pioneer, and his films will be the fodder of underground festivals and late-night cult showings. The people organizing the showings and filling the seats will no doubt be those who saw his films as children.

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