Lost In La Mancha

Movie Review by Dr Kuma

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Terry Gilliam, Johnny Depp, Vanessa Paradis
Directors: Keith Fulton; Louis Pepe

Terry Gilliam, now in his 60’s, is still seen as an ‘enfant terrible’. This stems from the fact that his imagination is difficult for Hollywood to understand. Visually, when they do get it right, distributors are left with visually stunning scenes that are lifted from his films in their ‘end of year reviews’ of what they have given the industry that year. Something that has stood out, the dance scene at Grand Central station springs to mind. Gilliam will have the completed picture in his mind and it’s down to others to give him the means of transferring his vision. This sometimes works very well (12 MONKEYS was a huge international hit) or a complete and utter disaster box office-wise (THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN). One thing that Terry Gilliam is without doubt – he is one of the most famous cult filmmakers around today. He has a loyal band of fans (I’m one of them), who will aim to see anything with his name on it, because of precisely that – you could be seeing anything!

What this film (or documentary, which is what it is) aims to show is that actually, Terry Gilliam is a genius and not only has Hollywood misunderstood him but so have many cinema audiences. His movies have always been interesting and all of them it seems have been a struggle to make. Not only has the Hollywood machine tainted his name after THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN, it seems that Terry’s dreams are becoming too expensive for most tastes, although the end product is normally stunning. It appears that when Terry came to tackle his dream project DON QUIXOTE, that nature too had turned it’s back on Mr Gilliam and went out of her way to make sure that this film would never be made. It’s happened before. Orson Welles tried to make ‘Don Quixote’ over a period of years but it remained unfinished. The clips we do get to see are enthralling. The one thing I took from this was that I hope Hollywood realises that Gilliam is a true visionary and should try to make his dreams a reality while they still can. I’d hate to see Gilliam wasted in the terrible way Orson Welles was in the latter part of his life. The Man who brought us TOUCH OF EVIL and LADY OF SHANGHAI reduced to voice-overs on cheap films.

It transpired that Terry had fallen out with Mother Nature at the time this movie was in production. The weather seemed to do all it could to throw the production into disarray as a torrential downpour, not only nearly washed away the crew, but also changed the entire colour of a landscape making a continuity shot impossible. His leading actor was diagnosed with a severe prostrate problem and couldn’t ride a horse on the days he wasn’t at the doctors. After being told that fighter planes were in the air over the area he wanted to film, the crew made sure that they would film around it. In reality, the noise from the planes was continuous but filming had to proceed, only to be re-dubbed when and if the film was finished. How Gilliam kept sane (although a lot of people think he isn’t) during filming is amazing.

Ultimately, filming was then abandoned at a loss of many millions and this only added to Gilliam’s tag of ‘enfant terrible’. As we can see, this was never Gilliam’s fault. All that could go wrong, did, and no matter what was done to compensate, it seems that DON QUIXOTE will be never be filmed in the way any of its directors intended. Is there a curse? Sometimes it’s a curse being a genius. As a sad Gilliam says at one point, “I don’t know if I’ll ever make it now. I don’t know if I want too. I’ve filmed it so many times in my head I know exactly how it goes”.

I hope that we get into the mind of Terry Gilliam once more. He’s work has always been interesting, as BRAZIL, TIME BANDITS and the FISHER KING have proved. One thing we know, they’re memorable and some of the biggest budgeted (bar TIME BANDITS) cult films ever made. But, like many of his films, where will you be able to see this film? I doubt it will be on at your local multiplex. It would make a fascinating double bill support for one of his classics however.

Dr Kuma’s verdict: Famous for his fantastic cartoons in Monty Python, Gilliam is still an animated genius.

3 out of 6 stars

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