Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell try to fill a void left by Heath Ledger

May 22, 2009 | 6:00 p.m.

Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan, reporting from Cannes, has a wonderful piece about Terry Gilliam and his new film, “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,”  which Heath Ledger was still working on at the time of his death…

Heath_ledger_photo_by_jennifer_s_al

Terry Gilliam went to the movies the other night, and this is what he saw: “Trailers from ‘Transformers,’ ‘ G.I. Joe,’ ‘ Harry Potter’; they all had the same explosions, the same sound mix, the same rhythms, it was all the same film,” the director says, still not quite believing it. “Hollywood’s been doing this for 20 years. When’s it going to end?”

It ends right here and now at Cannes’ Festival du Film, where Gilliam’s “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,” a work as exceptional and unusual as its title, premieres out of competition today. A tale of good and evil battling for souls that’s made with Gilliam’s fantastic and fantastical visual imagination, “Imaginarium” is the director’s best, most entertaining film in years.

Terry Gilliam

“Imaginarium” is also perhaps the most anticipated film of the festival because it’s the one Heath Ledger was working on when he died in January 2008, the one that ends with the on-screen credit “A Film From Heath Ledger and Friends” because colleagues Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell pitched in to finish it.

More unusual still, the structure of “Imaginarium” and the nature of what was left to shoot when the actor died made the use of those substitute actors so seamless that, Gilliam said, “the postproduction sound guy assumed it had been written that way.”

It’s no wonder, then, that Gilliam feels that he “didn’t make this film. Forces from above and below made it. It made itself. I don’t panic anymore. It’s got its own relentless momentum. It just needed some human sacrifice…”

READ THE REST

–Geoff Boucher

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Credit: Photo of Heath Ledger by Jennifer S. Altman/For the Los Angeles Times. Terry Gilliam photo by Patricia Williams/For the Times

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