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Cannes: Heath Ledger 'Doctor Parnassus' & Lars von Trier Controversial 'Antichrist'

Heath Ledger in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian:

Heath Ledger takes a poignant final bow in Terry Gilliam's loopy, sweet-natured but madly self-indulgent fantasia The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, showing here at the Cannes film festival out of competition. Halfway through shooting, Ledger had made a desperately sad early exit, so the director ingeniously re-invented his character as a series of personae. Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Johnny Depp gamely stepped into the breach.

“When Gilliam shoots off into his surreal wonderland, his film has a kind of helium-filled jollity and spectacle. … But the film's convoluted curlicues are tiring, insisting too loudly on how 'imaginative' everything is. And when it descends into the real world - Lucy out of the sky without diamonds, as it were - the film can frankly be a bit ho-hum, with some very broad acting from the bit-part crowd players.”


Heath Ledger in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

James Christopher in The [London] Times:

“In the scenes he did complete Ledger is a marvel to watch, though his entrance - hanging from a London bridge with a rope around his neck - is bitterly ironic.”

“… the film is a romantic homage to the art of make believe, and it grants Gilliam a license to run riot with his mind-bending illusions. But the story that holds these visions together is slim, incomprehensible, and desperately unconvincing.”


The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Lisa Schwarzbaum in Entertainment Weekly:

“The typically twisty, Gilliam-shaped truth of this newest patented mishmash of fantasia set-pieces, though, is that Ledger's role, completed in memoriam by Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell, is the liveliest piece in the puzzle (um, there were a number of walk-outs), a muddle of a deal-with-the-devil plot involving Doctor P (played a la grand old crackpot/Dumbledore by Christopher Plummer), said Devil (Tom Waits), and the Doctor's peachy daughter, Valentina (Lily Cole), whom the Doc had previously promised to the Prince of Darkness on her 16th birthday in exchange for immortality. (Dad now regrets that offer.)"


Heath Ledger in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Emma Jones at BBC News:

“All eyes are naturally on Ledger's performance for the time he remains on screen.

“It's bittersweet to see him in the flesh and to hear lines spoken to him in the film about those who go before their time: 'They are forever young, they won't grow old.'

“It's also hard to judge his performance as the film cuts between his replacements – Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell.”

“However, Gilliam's multiple choices work well, with Ledger and Depp actually looking curiously similar.”


Terry Gilliam

Terry Gilliam (above) on Heath Ledger, via Anthony Breznican's piece for USA Today:

“We [Gilliam, friends, and associates] discussed for a long time whether one actor could take the part, and I felt that was impossible and didn't think it was respectful. I didn't think it would work at all. And because we had the magic mirror (a plot device in the film) and Heath goes through it three times I thought okay – three actors, that would be the way to approach it. I think it's more surprising.”

“I've been very lucky because, while Heath died over a year ago, I've been working with him almost every day in the cutting room so he's been alive and well. It's slightly different for me. He doesn't seem to be that long departed from us. He's just the guy I work with daily.”


Photos: Courtesy Festival de Cannes

Lars von Trier & 'Antichrist'

Wendy Ide in The Times:

“Von Trier has moved away from the sparse, rough and ready work of the Dogme era and embraced a stylised and visually sumptuous look for Antichrist. The movie is packed with arresting and atmospheric images, some of which you'll wish you could permanently erase from your memory.

“If von Trier's issues with female sexuality have been evident in previous films, particularly Breaking the Waves and Dogville, in Antichrist he ups the ante, constructing a gender war of nuclear intensity between a bereaved couple hoping to heal their wounds and their marriage in an isolated country retreat.”


Xan Brooks in The Guardian:

“Chaos reigns. I stumble out in a daze, momentarily unsure whether I loved it or loathed it. Abruptly I realise that I love it. Von Trier has slapped Cannes with an astonishing, extraordinary picture – shocking and comical; a funhouse of terrors (of primal nature, of female sexuality) that rattles the bones and fizzes the blood before bowing out with a presumptuous dedication to Andrei Tarkovsky that had sections of the crowd hooting in fury. If he had dedicated Antichrist to the Queen Mother he could not have insulted them more.”


Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Whether this is a bad, good or great film is entirely beside the point. It is an audacious spit in the eye of society. It says we harbor an undreamed-of capacity for evil. It transforms a psychological treatment into torture undreamed of in the dungeons of history. Torturers might have been capable of such actions, but they would have lacked the imagination. Von Trier is not so much making a film about violence as making a film to inflict violence upon us, perhaps as a salutary experience. It's been reported that he suffered from depression during and after the film. You can tell. This is the most despairing film I've ever have seen.”


Lars von Trier at the post-screening press conference, as quoted in The Guardian:

“I don't have to justify myself. I make films and I enjoy very much making them. You are all my guests, it's not the other way round. I work for myself and I do this little film that I'm now kind of fond of and I haven't done it for you or the audience so I don't feel I owe anyone an explanation.”

Cannes: Heath Ledger 'Doctor Parnassus' & Lars von Trier Controversial 'Antichrist' © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
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