The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Johnny Depp in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Terry Gilliam’s career has been a bit of a wooly thing, flitting from genre to genre and flirting with the mainstream without ever quite consummating the relationship. His best film to date remains Brazil, a dystopic masterpiece that’s bookended by another pair of singular accomplishments — the well-regarded fantasy adventure Time Bandits and the less-celebrated epic The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. (A book, Losing the Light, was written about bringing that oversized project — a must-see for anyone who interested in expansive, expensive whimsy in the days before CGI — to the screen.) He next made The Fisher King, a nicely written (by Richard LaGravenese) romantic comedy with the hint of madness around the edges, with Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams, and then snared Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt for his big commercial triumph, a feature-length extrapolation from Chris Marker’s brilliant science-fiction short “La Jetée” called Twelve Monkeys. For an encore project, he moved in as a fix-it artist on a troubled Hunter S. Thompson biopic, completing the Johnny Depp vehicle and instant stoner classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. And with that, his future in the industry seemed assured.

And then the bottom fell out.

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Brokeback Mountain


“Y’know, I’m not queer,” growls Heath Ledger. “Me neither,” murmurs Jake Gyllenhaal, only a little less convincingly.

When he makes the gravelly declaration, Ledger, playing ranch hand Ennis Del Mar, has just clambered out of the tent where he spent a cozy night after roughly shagging his cowboy companion Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal), with whom he’s sharing a sheep-ranching gig — the kind of job you only take for a guaranteed pay-out when prospects elsewhere seem dim. Gyllenhaal’s quiet complacency contrasts with Ledger’s stern declaration. Having satisfied what may be transitory needs, the two of them are operating at emotional cross-purposes — Ennis trying to assert the encounter as a drunken aberration, and Jack balancing that discomfort against his own desires. He seems happy to say whatever’s most likely to keep his new lover close to him the longest.

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