Monday, 10 February 2014

L.J. SPENCE'S STARTING POINTS: LOST IN LA MANCHA

L.J. SPENCE'S STARTING POINTS

18. LOST IN LA MANCHA (2002, dir. Keith Fulton & Louis Pepe)

10/02/2014


"I'm hoping it's the lucky 11... We keep rewriting the script each time, too, so it's a slightly different film each time. It's the same film but the details change... Maybe it's better - it's certainly slightly smaller to fit into the new clothing we wear, which are cheap clothes these days... It's obsessive... desperate... pathetic... foolish. It's this growth, this tumour that's become part of my system that has to get out if I'm to survive."

Terry Gilliam is the second of two types of filmmaker - the first are those who talk about the world by blowing it up, and the second are those who create a new world, either the "same, but different" or "completely different" kind. I prefer the second, as it most clearly defines a different perspective, enticing you to delve in further. This is true of both fantasy and comedy, and Terry Gilliam is best when both can be explored at the same time.

The ideas behind the world Gilliam explores are suitably enormous, befitting a director of the old "auteur" kind - the singular vision that drives a film to screen, whether it works, or not. Yes, he will have as much success as anyone else, but when it doesn't work, everyone will be looking at him.

"Lost in La Mancha" shows this perfectly. A making-of documentary that got out of hand, Gilliam striving to make "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote," a film about a present-day marketing executive, thrown back in time, and mistaken for Sancho Panza by Don Quixote himself. Co-written with Charles McKeown, the writing team of Gilliam's possible magnum opus, "Brazil" (1985) had promise, but it also had bad luck - prime locations sat next to a NATO air base, continuing to shoot through the noise of fighter jets, a flood, and an injury to the lead actor that ultimately shut down the film. A quixotic task to say the least, but no film will better show how a film director will work against the world to create one of their own.

The quote that begins this piece was from earlier today (Monday 10th February), as Gilliam announces that his project will begin shooting again in the autumn, after completing a production with the English National Opera. Script rights returned from the bank that insured, then took ownership of the failed production, we may yet be surprised, so here is hoping that what scraps of finished footage and storyboards seen in "Lost in La Mancha" are worth the determination afforded to them - mind you, it is Terry Gilliam we are talking about here...

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