The Adventures of Baron Munchausen Terry Gilliam

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen Terry Gilliam
Cleopatra, Titanic, Apocalypse Now, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen — troubled film productions all but Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, and Francis Coppola and James Cameron each emerged from their stormy times pretty much with their careers and reputations intact. Occasionally eccentric film director (and Monty Python alumnus) Terry Gilliam wasn’t so lucky — since this famously disastrous 1989 film, he’s been tagged as "difficult,” "financially irresponsible” and even "crazy,” a rep that continues to hinder his ability to get films made even with later successes like The Fisher King under his belt. Now for the first time comes a DVD edition that lets Gilliam finally speak his mind — not to offer a Mea culpa, mind you, but to deny that most of the film’s troubles were his fault. Like many of the aforementioned "disasters” (Cleopatra excepted — it brought down a whole studio), the end result of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is far from unwatchable; it’s an old school fairy tale adventure with some delightful production design and plenty of visual eye candy for fans of Gilliam’s oeuvre, and it garnered four Oscar nominations (for visual effects, production design, costumes and makeup). But in an all-new three-part featurette, "The Madness and Misadventures of Munchausen,” Gilliam really lets fly, particularly against producer Thomas Schuhly. Schuhly himself has his say, admitting that he all but gave up on the production as soon as troubles began, claiming that Gilliam dislikes him solely because Shuhly is German (and not because, for example, he gave up on the film as soon as it got tough). Filming at Italy’s famous Cinecetta studios, with a non-English speaking crew, was at the root of the problems but budget constraints, management changes at the studio and a million other issues quickly spiralled out of control. Even Sarah Polley (who played little Sally Salt before she turned ten years old) describes her primary memory of the production as "fear” and has to remind herself that she was excited about it when she was first cast. When it was finally finished — and the featurette covers the extensive production challenges quite thoroughly — the studio head that green-lit the project was long gone and it was buried in an extremely limited release that all but guaranteed its failure. Gilliam joins co-writer/actor Charles McKeown on a commentary that is less bitter and more appreciative of the final product, and the pair have a good time voicing storyboard sequences of could-have-been production numbers that didn’t make the final cut. A handful of largely meaningless deleted scenes round out the project. But for long-time Gilliam fans/defenders, this two-disc edition of Munchausen is the artistic vindication he’s long deserved. (Sony)