Tag Archives: Tom Waits

Walt Disney Meets Salvador Dali: “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus”

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First published January 21, 2010 – revised 1/25/10, 11:00 pm

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus - Flixter.com
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus - Flixter.com

Director/Writer Terry Gilliam must have channeled both Salvador Dali and Walt Disney to create this film.

I don’t know if it’s partly because I know one of the players, but I say “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus” is one of the best movies I’ve seen.

Plot synopsis from IMDb: “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a fantastical morality tale, set in the present day. It tells the story of Dr Parnassus and his extraordinary ‘Imaginarium’, a travelling show where members of the audience get an irresistible opportunity to choose between light and joy or darkness and gloom. Blessed with the extraordinary gift of guiding the imaginations of others, Dr Parnassus is cursed with a dark secret. Long ago he made a bet with the devil, Mr Nick, in which he won immortality. Many centuries later, on meeting his one true love, Dr Parnassus made another deal with the devil, trading his immortality for youth, on condition that when his first-born reached its 16th birthday he or she would become the property of Mr Nick. Valentina is now rapidly approaching this ‘coming of age’ milestone and Dr Parnassus is desperate to protect her from her impending fate. Mr Nick arrives to collect but, always keen to make a bet, renegotiates the wager. Now the winner of Valentina will be determined by whoever seduces the first five souls. Enlisting a series of wild, comical and compelling characters in his journey, Dr Parnassus promises his daughter’s hand in marriage to the man that helps him win. In this captivating, explosive and wonderfully imaginative race against time, Dr Parnassus must fight to save his daughter in a never-ending landscape of surreal obstacles – and undo the mistakes of his past once and for all… ”

From the opening scenes and throughout most of the movie there’s a “dream-imagery” which evokes the inner-fantasy part of a cozy opium-den (not that I would know) or a Daliesque landscape with bright blue-skies, rowboats and a bovine carcass floating in the water. The water scene reminds one – of the clips in Dali’s Un Chien Andalou when “the woman’s left eyeball is sliced-open with a straight-edge razor,” or “the piano/horse scene.”

The warm reds, golds, maroons, purples and whatevers of the living-quarters of Dr. Parnassus’ horse-drawn wagon A.K.A. *The Imaginarium are so soothing that I wanted those scenes to go on and on without end. Another memorable scene reveals artistic excellence when a “wall of reality” is peeled open.”

This is a streeetch, however there is a little coffee-house, in one of my favorite cities, Santa Ana, California called The Gypsy Den. I first discovered it when I was living in Santa Ana – Right, just like Columbus.

The Gypsy Den is on First Avenue and Broadway, if I recall correctly. It is anchoring a corner in the Hispanic area of Santa Ana. For me that is part of its charm. The interior is authentic Gypsy: old stuffed divans, couches and sofa-chairs, old oil-paintings, posters, old pictures and books. I recall scarves, candles, brass, a coffee-bar with pastry cases, giant coffee cups and California girls pouring coffee and serving cinnamon roles A.K.A. rolls.

There’s an old cigarette-burned piano in a stage-like area, and tables near windows which let in California sunshine. There’s a garden-of-eden patio on the North, in a bit of heaven – an old Santa Ana coblestoned town-square. Three blocks north on Broadway, you’re in Mexico, USA.

There is a point to all this, The Gypsy Den is a bit of Dr. Parnassus’ Imaginarium.

Paloma Faith - Flicker.Com
Paloma Faith - Flicker.Com

All of the actors shine: Christopher Plummer’s Dr. Parnassus is as powerful as a Star Wars character. The team effort of Johnny Depp, Heath Ledger, Jude Law and Colin Farrell (listed in order of appearance,) all playing the character named Tony is interesting and seamless.
Tom Waits as Mr. Nick, the devil should get top kudos for best performance of a devil. Lily Cole’s (Kewpie-Doll) Valentina, the good Doctor’s daughter-in-peril is sexy-sweet-charming, and Paloma Faith is stop-cold stunning [see photo.] She is Mr. Nick’s flashy, diamond-girlfriend, Sally. Verne Troyer is magnificent as Dr. Parnassus’s diminutive assistant.

If I were giving out awards I’d give Christopher Plummer an award for best actor; I’d give an award to Tom Waits for best supporting actor, or to Verne Troyer for best supporting actor. I’d give out awards for set design, art design/direction, costumes, music and more. Lily Cole is very believable as Valentina. Andrew Garfield deserves a mention. His character, Anton is the Imaginarium’s barker and Valentina’s love interest. Tony (The late Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell) should get an award for being able to wear the same suit.

*Yeah, I realize that the phenomenon of the Imaginarium extends far beyond the boundaries of the wagon.

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“He rocks in the tree-top all a day long
Hoppin’ and a-boppin’ and a-singin’ the song
All the little birds on J-Bird St.
Love to hear the robin goin’ tweet tweet tweet”

“Rockin’ robin (tweet tweet tweet)
Rockin’ robin (tweet tweet tweet)
Oh rockin’ robin well you really gonna rock tonight” read the rest of the lyrics to this hit song from 1958 on MamaRocks.com

Rockin’ Robin is a 1958 song by Bobby Day. The single was Day’s only hit single, becoming a No. 2 Billboard Hot 100 hit. The song was covered by The Hollies on their first album in 1964 and would be revived as a single again in 1972 by the teenaged Michael Jackson as his second single release on Motown. Jackson took his version to number two on the U.S. pop singles chart that year” read more on Wikipedia

Adding my input to the Twitter landslide, this must be the definitive song for Twitterers: Bobby Day’s 1958 hit “Rockin’ Robin.” The word “tweet” is used 24 times, that’s two dozen tweets.

If anyone can show me a song with more than two dozen “tweets,” I’ll give them a nice prize.

Bobby Day’s Rockin’ Robin on YouTube

“An important cog in Los Angeles’ doo wop community during the ’50s, Bobby Day wrote three often-covered early rock classics in 1957-1958. Day was part of the Hollywood Flames, one of the area’s top R&B vocal groups, and briefly part of Bob & Earl, later to hit without Day on “Harlem Shuffle.” Day formed his own group, the Satellites, in 1957, cutting the original “Little Bitty Pretty One” for Class Records. A nearly identical cover by Thurston Harris beat the original out, so Day countered with the driving “Rockin’ Robin” in 1958, an R&B chart-topper. Its flip, “Over and Over,” was a hit in its own right, although the Dave Clark Five’s 1965 revival is better remembered today. Day waxed a few more hits for Class in 1959, including “That’s All I Want” and a derivative “The Bluebird, the Buzzard & the Oriole,” flitting from label to label during the ’60s.” ~ Bill Dahl, All Music Guide [This info is from JohnB1948Two’s YouTube channel.]

The fine clockwork, drum work on Rockin’ Robin is by Earl Palmer.
“Earl Cyril Palmer (October 25, 1924 – September 19, 2008)[1] was an American drummer and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”

“Palmer played on many recording sessions, including Little Richard’s first several albums and Tom Waits’ 1978 album Blue Valentine. According to one obituary, “his list of credits read like a Who’s Who of American popular music of the last 60 years” more from Wikipedia

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