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The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
by Mychael Danna and Jeff Danna

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

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 The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Soundtrack) by Mychael Danna and Jeff Danna
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The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Soundtrack) by Mychael Danna and Jeff Danna

The Imaginarium
of Doctor Parnassus
Composed by
Mychael Danna & Jeff Danna
Lionsgate Records (2010)

Rating: 9/10

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“Mychael and Jeff Danna have achieved something precious here: a unique voice, an evocative musical score, and a thoroughly engaging listening experience. ”

A Troubled Family
Review by Marius Masalar

Everyone remember that tame, sane film of Terry Gilliam’s? Neither do I. Gilliam seems to be a visionary man of sorts, though precisely what visions those are we may never want to know beyond the scope of his consistently strange and controversial films. THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS, of course, also stands as a parting gesture from the late Heath Ledger, who passed away while the film was still in production in 2008. Critics have been ambivalent about how the major revisions to the script and cast that followed have affected the final product. What remains for certain is that the stellar cast has provided truly heartfelt performances in memory of their friend, and the film is just as lush and dark as the best of Gilliam’s oeuvre. There’s almost always a touch of magic in his work, and in this 2009 offering, THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS, we find a culmination of many familiar thematic ideas. So too with the score, courtesy of the Canadian film scoring brothers, MYCHAEL and JEFF DANNA.

There is a potent element of tragedy in the underbelly of this film, and the brothers Danna address it very well from the very start. “Once Upon a Time” (1) not only introduces the film’s main theme, but does so through a plaintive solo cello that gracefully escalates its musical message into a fully orchestral statement of the main theme that’s truly gorgeous. “The Imaginarium” (2) and “The Tack” (3) are creepy and energetic tracks that encapsulate the style that MYCHAEL DANNA used throughout TIDELAND and other similar scores. Evidently, he and his brother share the stylistic tendency and together are able to polish and refine it.

“The Monastery” (5) is a strike from left field, with a saxophone — of all things — pulled into the instrumental ensemble. Not only does it fit, but its stringent line helps lift the orchestra into a marvelously dark crescendo before toning down into a low-key, lounge jazz rendition of the film’s main theme. Solos are a major part of this score’s sound, and a solo violin takes up the mantle in “Sympathy For The Hanged Man” (7), a slow and nostalgic cue that builds with patience before leading into another jazzy number, “The First To Five Souls” (8). Channeling their inner Danny Elfman, the Danna brothers remind us of the main theme in “Escape From The Pub” (9), a lively cue in the vein of BEETLEJUICE for a while before settling back into the dark romance of heartfelt strings.

Contrary to the way things usually go, the middle of this score actually holds some of its finest moments. “Suicide Attempt” (11) and “Tango Amongst The Lilies” (12) are both stellar cues, with the first bringing back the saxophone and unleashing the orchestra in a powerful emotional climax. The tango is catchy and quirky, and the drama of the score’s middle is well resolved by “Victory In The Lilies” (13), which not only restates the tango theme and the main theme, but also provides a gentle moment of respite.

Short-lived, obviously, with “Four Through The Mirror” (14) jolting us back to attention with a hilarious circus-like fanfare before dropping dead into a sentimental string reflection. The entire cue alternates wildly between the carnival atmosphere and softer, more menacing interludes. “The Ladder World” (15) serves as a propulsive and rousing cue leading into the films final leg, and the place where we find the most, uh, interesting offerings on the album.

“We Love Violence” (16) is one of two songs in the film for which Terry Gilliam himself wrote the lyrics, and it really doesn’t come as a surprise when you hear them. The music itself is a throwback to the glory days of Monty Python, and it’s challenging to avoid smiling when you hear it. There’s a brief interlude in the form of the gentle “Top Of The Wagon” (17) before the next very short song begins. “We Are The Children Of The World” (18) is the second song that owes its lyrics to Gilliam, and it’s actually something of a spoof of a certain Michael Jackson song with a similar title.

The album’s ending is absolutely wrenching, beginning with the crumbling beginning of “Tony’s World Collapses” (19) and continuing on to the bizarre and angular “Devil’s Dance” (20) before resolving itself over the course of the final two tracks. Themes are revisited, characters are redeemed, and the album closes in a manner that feels more circular, satisfying, and beautiful than most recent albums have been.

There are saxophones, cimbaloms, accordions, and all manner of strange things added to the standard orchestral mix in this score. Though there are several tracks that fall a bit flat in between the major set pieces, the score fits the film like an odd glove, and manages to be alternately gorgeous, evil, and hilarious too. MYCHAEL and JEFF DANNA have achieved something precious here: a unique voice, an evocative musical score, and a thoroughly engaging listening experience. The film may have been as weird and difficult as any of Terry Gilliam’s work, but it’s hard to deny the rich, dark magic that pervades it.

 

Rating: 9/10

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Track

Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Once Upon a Time 1:44  *****
2 The Imaginarium 1:06  ***
3 The Tack 2:24  *****
4 Tony's Tale of Woe 1:39  ****
5 The Monastery 2:42  ****
6 Book & Story 2:57  ***
7 Sympathy for the Hanged Man 2:16  ****
8 The First to Five Souls 1:57  ***
9 Escape from the Pub 2:26  ****
10 The River 1:45  ***
11 Suicide Attempt 2:17  *****
12 Tango Amongst the Lilies 2:38  *****
13 Victory in the Lilies 2:50  *****
14 Four Through the Mirror 2:06  *****
15 The Ladder World 1:28  ****
16 We Love Violence 0:43  ****
17 Top of the Wagon 1:11  **
18 We are the Children of the World 0:40  ****
19 Tony's World Collapses 2:17  ****
20 The Devil's Dance 1:42  ****
21 Tony's Salvation 3:41  ****
22 Parnassus Alone 4:49  *****
  Total Running Time (approx) 47 minutes  

 

 

 
   

 

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