Published Jan 01, 2006For any other filmmaker, it would be the Quixote curse. For Terry Gilliam, storied director of such successes as 12 Monkeys and The Fisher King, it's just another day at the office.
Subtitled "The Un-Making of Don Quixote," Lost In La Mancha chronicles Gilliam's decade-long effort to make his version of the famed classic, called The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. But despite his films' critical and commercial successes, a cloud hangs over Terry Gilliam. And no, it's not the storm clouds that wash away large pieces of his set on the third day of shooting in Madrid (accompanied by screaming F-16s from a nearby NATO test range) that cloud is 1988's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, one of the great financial and critical disasters in Hollywood history (but c'mon, it wasn't that bad).
Largely due to an undeserved reputation for being financially out of control oh yeah, and a just one for being fiercely stubborn Gilliam had great difficulty raising a $32 million budget for Quixote, about half of what it should be to properly realise his vision. The Quixote tale, in brief: he's an old man (played by 70-year-old French actor Jean Rochefort, who spent months learning English, and came down with prostate problems days before shooting, mostly on horseback, to start) despondent that he's made nothing of his life. Inspired and mad, he sets off on a ridiculous adventure the attacking windmills bit, for example, he thinks they're giants.
Thematically, Quixote is about the power of the imagination to triumph over harsh reality and in this brilliant documentary, of course, Gilliam is more than a little Quixotic. It's no surprise that what little footage Gilliam managed to shoot, with Johnny Depp in the lead as Quixote sidekick Sancho Panza, looks fantastic. And Gilliam, with an obvious stake in the success of this documentary, contributes his own animations and storyboards as he excitedly retells a film that will likely never get made. But don't tell Gilliam mere months after the rights are snatched away after only five days of principle photography, he's right back in there trying to buy them back. Charging up the hill after that windmill. (Alliance Atlantis/Odeon)