The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus Blu-ray Review
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is presented in 1080p High Definition framed in a 1.85:1 widescreen format and encoded using the AVC MPEG-4 codec.
It's a Terry Gilliam film so you can fully expect to be bedazzled with what's on show. You won't be disappointed. The imaginary worlds beyond the mirror are full of bright primary colours and its all eye candy stuff. It's a strikingly schizophrenic kaleidoscopic of colours.
The detail throughout the movie is impeccable and the images shine through with absolute clarity. Along with the detailed definition there is an astonishing sense of depth to the whole image at all times. The image is fantastic and you can peer into the minutiae of the picture and be rewarded with what is best described as a shockingly high level of attention to detail.
All of this is further compounded by a lovely fluid motion to an image devoid of DNR, excessive grain, edge enhancement or any other kind of video nasty for that matter. Perfectionists should start rubbing there hands in glee right now because this is as pristine as you can get.
In the real world scenes of London things are quite intentionally presented in a far murkier manner. The colour palette is toned down considerably to reflect the darkened scenes. It may appear drab and sombre in comparison but it is in actual fact very realistic. Skin tones retain a very natural appearance throughout.
I guess if there's a chink in this discs visual armour its probably with the levels of black. They are certainly good but perhaps a little inconsistent on occasion. I'm not sure why this is so and it maybe to draw out starker differences between the two worlds ? It's only a slight criticism and no biggie. Contrast however does not appear to falter and provides a great depth and punch to the image at all times.
Aside from these latter points, it is a wonderfully crisp disc that provides a truly visual delight. Sony has conjured up a disc deserved of excellence and bordering on reference.
When the video is as good as it is here it would be a real shame if it is let down by the audio. Thankfully the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack proves to be the perfect companion and sets out to better the visuals.
It is probably best to describe this as a rather active sound track where barely a moment goes past when you aren't pattered by a plethora of wonderfully weird sounds. This is after all Terry Gilliam fare so it's a case of sensory overload.
The atmospheric is mixed with the discrete and the clarity of the whole sound spectrum is as precise as one could hope for. If you want to give your system a quality work out then this soundtrack will provide the perfect source material to do so. Whether you've got a top end system or a humble all in one solution this soundtrack will have you grinning like a Cheshire cat from start to finish.
Sublime subtlety is presented in equal measure as the more immediate sound effects to keep your ears tingling with delight for the whole duration of the film. Clicks, whirrs, bells, whistles, thunder, thuds, explosions and every other sound you can possibly imagine is layered into the mix at every opportunity. There is never a moment when there isn't a sound of some sort including the accompanying score. Dull this is most certainly not.
The multi-channel experience is also well catered for and it's all beautifully balanced. The panning across the front stage is effortless with voices coming through the centre with a beautiful tonal clarity. In fact the clarity is exceptional and the reality of some of the sounds is enough to startle you. This really is great stuff.
I felt that the LFE activity was perfectly weighted and accentuated the bottom end adequately. It's not an onslaught though and the sound engineers haven't fallen foul of trying to go overboard. Some of you though may feel that this is perhaps the one area where you may be looking for more oomph.
Sony has delivered in spades here and you owe yourself a favour to give this one a listen. Once again fully deserved of excellence, bordering on reference.
Feature introduction by Terry Gilliam Terry Gilliam provides a short introduction to the main film. He mainly speaks about the challenge of having to pull the film together without Heath Ledger and pays a tribute to him.
Audio Commentary by Terry Gilliam The supporting commentary is a well spoken and thoughtful addition to the extras. Terry Gilliam speaks of the movie, the death of Heath Ledger and the challenges he had to encounter in completing the film. He pretty much encapsulates everything that you would wish to hear. It's all terribly sad but it's a commendable commentary nonetheless and makes for a worthwhile and supportive listen.
Deleted scenes with optional commentary- 4mins 24secs - Terry Gilliam provides a voice over on some of the deleted scenes. Some of these do not feature in the film where as others are more extensions of what you get in the film. His commentary is rather more circumstantial than expansive but it's worth listening to him talk.
Heath Ledger Wardrobe Test - 2mins 32secs - This is a 2 minute reel of watching Heath ledger trying on different costumes and acting into the camera. There is an optional commentary by Terry Gilliam available and he mainly talks about Heath's persona and how working with him was good fun.
Building the Monastery - 7mins 15secs - Very much the crew and technicians type of extra this one. John Paul Docherty the Visual Effects Supervisor kicks it off about how they went about building and filming the monastery which is shown in the film. You get snippets of the storyboard and a lot of input about how Gilliam provided the guidelines and drive behind the imagination needed to conjure this up. Dave Warren the Design Director provides an overview of the process and there is a good appreciation of the level detail involved in building the model.
Behind the mirror - 3mins 27secs - Terry Gilliam kicks this off followed by the rest of the cast and they all chip in about their own parts and the role that they played in the film.
UK Premiere Featurette - 12mins 32secs - This is a rather strange sequence of handy cam footage taken at the premiere of the movie in Leicester Square. It has an overpowering score dubbed over the screams and shouts of the crowd. The whole thing looks and sounds bizarre. It's soon followed by Terry Gilliam coming onto stage and introducing the cast and crew to the audience in the auditorium. The sound levels are terrible and I suggest you turn the volume level down a little to avoid getting yourself a headache every time the audience applaud.
Heath Ledger and Friends - 5mins 45secs - Terry Gilliam talks about how they handled the tragedy of losing Heath Ledger whilst making this film. It was simply case of pack up the bags or go back to the drawing board to try and make a go of it. Jude Law, Johnny Depp and Colin Farrell are applauded for their friendship and wanting to help complete the movie.
Heath Ledger Interview - 3mins 8secs A poignant selection of stills from the movie presented with an interview with Heath Ledger. The recording is taken a few weeks before they started filming and Heath talks about his work on the Brothers Grimm with Terry Gilliam. He was clearly in awe of Gilliam and was very much looking forward to doing this film with him.
The Imaginarium of Terry Gilliam - 6mins 32secs The extras really wouldn't be complete without getting some sort of insight into the mind of the man himself. Stories and productions like this don't just come about out of thin air. Aside from the imagination that conjures up the story there is also the hard work in order to realise and bring it to life. Disappointingly half of the feature is the usual cast and crew praise of the Director rather than Terry talking himself.
'The Drunk' multi angle feature- 2mins 12secs This is a really excellent feature and covers the opening scenes where a young drunk chap enters the Imaginarium. What you get here is an overlay of the special effects used in making the scene. On the screen you can toggle between Pre-visualisation (sketch board), Blue screen (studio), Draft FX (blue screen blended into the film) and the how the final feature itself ends up looking like. It really is great toggling between the four and seeing it all work and come together.
There's no doubting that Terry Gilliam can polarise an audience but The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is actually quite an accessible film. It's intriguing and interesting without being a labour of love. Personally I have to rate it as one Gilliam's best as the effort put in to salvage a nigh on disaster has in actual fact returned a bit of a gem.
It does however remain unmistakably as a Gilliam film. It is has all the eccentricity he is renowned for along with some bizarre visuals to accompany the story. This is a visual feast by a director who has used all the special effects at his disposal and brought his ideas bang up to date.
The technical aspects of the blu-ray disc are quite literally fantastic. The visuals are strikingly good and the audio a sublime aural experience. The disc is good enough to be considered as a benchmark for many and comfortably sits in a class well above the norm. There is also a fine collection of goodies for you to peruse in the extras. Whilst it's not a bumper full edition there is definitely some good quality content that will please both fans and prospective buyers alike. It's also worth noting that the UK disc is locked to Region B only.
For me it's a no brainer, I loved it, but you may just want to watch the film beforehand to agree any terms of endearment. The disc itself however is of exceptional quality and worth buying alone just to give your system a 'real' quality workout.
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