Lost In La Mancha

Lost In La Mancha


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Terry Gilliam was Monty Python's animator before directing such offbeat gems as Brazil, Time Bandits, The Fisher King and The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen. His reputation precedes him, which, if you are a producer, is not so hot. He spends money, he's a perfectionist, he's more concerned with the quality of film than whether it passes the popcorn test. He's an artist and he's American.

In the summer of 2000 in Spain, after 10 years working on an adaptation of Don Quixote, with no financial backing from Hollywood and, therefore, no interference from studio accountants, he is ready to begin. He is optimistic. He has the perfect lead in Jean Rochefort - it was difficult finding actors of a certain age who felt comfortable astride an animal - and an odd choice for his sidekick in Johnny Depp.

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The money has come from Europe. It will be the most costly movie ever made there, budgeted at $32million, cut from $40million. "It's half what we need," an assistant director says. Gilliam's vision has never come cheap. Originality is expensive, which may be why he was turned down by the Harry Potter people, in favour of the man who made Home Alone.

Young documentary makers Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe, sensing trouble at t'mill, tagged along, recording the gradual coming apart of the project. As a movie about making a movie, it gives no clear indication of anything. People say stuff like "There's a lot of potential for chaos here" and "One week before production - sheer panic", but you don't see this and don't know why.

The sets are built, the costumes ready, the actors late. On day two, it rains a lot. Rochefort can't sit on his horse without crippling pain and so returns to Paris to see a doctor.

Insurance execs invade the set and talk gobbly-gook about what is, and what is not, an Act Of God. Gilliam is desperate to shoot film, but can't until the money's sorted. Tears well in his eyes. He looks resigned and alone, as crew members drift away to other jobs.

Surely a movie of this size, and of such ambition, can sustain a bit of bad weather and a double hernia. Apparently not. Only a trouble-free production schedule would have given the picture a cat in hell's chance.

Fulton and Pepe were there. They filmed people standing about, Gilliam playing with model windmills, Rochefort being charming, Depp's tattoos, but there is no cohesion and little comprehension of what the ex-Python promised would be "terrible and beautiful at the same time".

Reviewed on: 31 Jul 2002
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Documentary makers chart the falling apart of Gilliam's Don Quixote production.
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Director: Keith Fulton, Louis Pepe

Starring: Terry Gilliam, Jean Rochefort, Johnny Depp, the crew and cast of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

Year: 2002

Runtime: 89 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


Bradford 2011

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If you like this, try:

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote