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Movie Poster of the Week: “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”

The superb British poster for Terry Gilliam’s latest folly The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (which opens today in the UK and on Christmas Day in the US) is all in the details. The movie most famous for being the film Heath Ledger was in the middle of shooting when he died (and thus nearly yet another unfinished Gilliam project) is here pushing not Ledger, nor his none-too-shabby stand-ins Jude Law, Colin Farrell or Johnny Depp, but doll-faced British supermodel Lily Cole. At first and even second glance the image of a pale, naked, child-like red-head with a blank stare seems deliberately reminiscent of the notorious Blind Faith album cover designed by Bob Seidemann (look it up if you have to). It also has an obviously Alice in Wonderland quality to it, so it seems almost redundant that Cole will next be starring as Alice in the equally verbosely titled Phantasmagoria: The Visions of Lewis Carroll, directed by none other than gothdom's own Terry Gilliam, Marilyn Manson. (Cole can also be seen in the St. Trinians retread, just released in theaters, as well as in Sally Potter's Rage, just released in iPhones). But enough about Cole: it is the Cornell box quality of the poster that I love (the designers, Empire Design, are a New York/London based studio that produce some of the best high-end poster design in the semi-indie world). Look closely and you can see jellyfish and snakes, dwarfs and maharishis, Pythonesque coppers in skirts and the aforementioned matinee idols. And also the fabulous fontage of the title design.

What's interesting is that every country releasing this film seems to have a completely different campaign for it. See below: an alternative UK quad design that makes the film look more like Harry Potter than a Gilliam joint. Also one-sheets from South Korea and Italy Spain, and a couple from a series of character posters from France. Tom Waits est Mr. Nick.

I can’t say I'm actually looking forward to the Imaginarium: I'm already exhausted at the thought of it. Plus, every time I hear about it I can’t help thinking of this:

A minor cavil given that this feature is easily my favourite weekly update on The Auteurs, but I think that one sheet from Italy is actually from Spain (or the Spanish-speaking world). The main British designs remind me a little of some of Mike Wilks’s Ultimate Alphabet paintings (the less cluttered ones).
Thanks Gareth. Yes, you’re right it’s Spain of course (I did have an Italian one but it was the same Potter-esque design as the British quad). I had to look up Mike Wilks but that’s true.
I’ve not seen this poster anywhere in the UK, only the dreadful Lionsgate one underneath which is a serious candidate for worst poster of the year. Given the top one is also 1-sheet format rather than quad, was it definitely designed for the UK campaign?
Jonathan, could it have been used on the Underground? That’s the one place I’ve seen vertical posters in the UK. It does have the British rating on it so it’s not for the US. Also I’m sure they’ll want to push Ledger, Depp et al more here.
Hi Adrian, no, definitely not the Underground – it’s all that floating head Photoshop disaster. I’m guessing sales or festival poster though rare to see those with full billing block and certificate.
Apparently this poster was used for the UK premiere only. Very very few of these posters have gone to collectors. Apparently 2-3 were given to fan club members. Holiday ( has one of them. Too bad, as it’s one of the best posters of the last few years. Mel (

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