Cannes 2009: The Tomato Report - Gilliam Fails to Impress with Parnassus

While Noe makes a typically uncompromising return to Cannes.

by | May 23, 2009 | Comments

Critics in Cannes were amongst the first, yesterday, to see Heath Ledger‘s final performance in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, the fantasy flick that was long-delayed due to his death, played at the festival. Reviews have been mixed at best.

“Ledger’s performance provides an adequate swansong for loyal fans on pilgrimages to the multiplexes this autumn,” Charles Gant writes for The Independent. “But many will exit scratching their heads.”

Directed by Terry Gilliam, the film is a fantastical morality tale, revolving around the ancient Doctor and his magical mirror which allows punters to explore the darkest realms of their imagination. Christopher Plummer plays the Doctor, while Ledger stars as a suicidal soul he meets along the way. Many seem to have a problem with the film’s narrative structure however, with James Christopher of The Times stating, that it is, “impossible to unscramble what it all means.”

Cannes 2009
Critics failed to warm to Gilliam’s latest

Todd McCarthy of Variety seems to sum up the general consensus. “Especially considering the trauma and difficulties stemming from Heath Ledger’s death during production and the fact that Terry Gilliam hadn’t directed a good picture in more than a decade, the helmer has made a pretty good thing out of a very bad situation.”

The film currently has a score of 44% on the Tomatometer.

Gaspar Noe‘s typically uncompromising new film Enter the Void, on the other hand, had critic’s tongues a-wagging last night, with his sexually explicit feature impressing and disgusting the critics on the Croisette. The Cannes guide calls his film an, “hallucinatory maelstrom,” and judging by the general reaction, that seems to be an understatement.

The story revolves around drug dealer Oscar and his sister Linda. Newly arrived in Tokyo, Oscar is caught up in a drug bust and shot. His spirit refuses to abandon Linda however, and so wanders through the city in a series of visually stunning scenes.

Writing for Screen International, Mike Goodridge calls the film, “a wild, hallucinatory mindfuck for adults.” He adds that it’s, “More experience than narrative, meandering and careening in and out of story and into visual realms and moods that are nothing short of hypnotic.”

Cannes 2009
Gaspar Noe makes a typically uncompromising return to Cannes.

However, he qualifies these statements by adding, “If audiences care to, they can lose themselves in Noe’s images and trip on his imagination. If they don’t, they will be bored to tears.”

Variety’s Todd Nelson is even more cutting, claiming the film, “proves to be the ne plus ultra of nothing much. Having come in under the wire [it] may once again be ready to enter the editing room.”

The New York Times is less downbeat, with Manohla Dargis claiming that the director has mellowed since Cannes hit Irreversible in 2002. “This is the work of an artist who’s trying to show us something we haven’t seen before. The grungy milieu and calculated shocks might have been designed to make you flee – even while your attention is tethered to the camera – but, really, these aren’t the point. The point is the filmmaking.”