August 14, 2005


Terry Gilliam's Feel-Good Endings (CHARLES McGRATH, 8/14/05, NY Times)

TERRY GILLIAM filmed his newest movie, "Tideland," in Saskatchewan last fall, racing to complete the location shots before winter set in. The Mitch Cullin novel on which the film is based is mostly set in West Texas, but Mr. Gilliam had substituted the Canadian prairie instead. The evening after he wrapped, it started to snow, and the cast, crew and director all saw this as an omen.

If this had been a Gilliam production beset by the kind of bad fortune that has sometimes clung to his movies, the snow would have blown in much sooner, five or six feet of it; the cameras would have frozen, turning the fingers of the cinematographer, Nicola Pecorini, black with frostbite; the stars would have been evacuated by chopper - or rather, the budget having most likely run out, by dog sled.

"Tideland" went on to be finished on schedule, moreover, and will have its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival next month. Meanwhile, the director has another movie, "The Brothers Grimm," starring Matt Damon (with 19th-century bad hair) and Heath Ledger, opening in this country next week after more than a year of disputes and postponements. Together, the two films mark the end of the longest dry spell in Mr. Gilliam's 31-year career.

In the years since he left the Monty Python troupe, Mr. Gilliam has acquired a reputation for being both a visionary and - in Hollywood it amounts to the same thing - a bit of a madman, and has therefore done more than his share of stints in development hell. Unless you count his starring role in Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe's 2002 documentary "Lost in La Mancha," he has been absent from the screen since 1998, when his "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" came out. And the documentary, about the Job-like streak of bad luck Mr. Gilliam endured while trying to work on a film version of "Don Quixote," almost makes you wonder why he ever wanted to make a movie again.

The documentary about the Don Quixote fiasco, Lost in La Mancha, is like watching one of those 50 car pile-ups in the California fog in slow motion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 14, 2005 12:00 AM
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