Friday, June 6th, 2003
Lost In La Mancha
This is turning out to be quite the week of movies for me. Four so far, and five if I catch Just An American Boy tomorrow night. Tonight was Lost In La Mancha, the documentary about Terry Gilliam’s doomed attempt to make Don Quixote into a film. I’ve always liked Gilliam’s work – even when it doesn’t quite do it on a narrative level, such as Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, it’s still visually satisfying, and when it does work on every front – see Twelve Monkeys or The Fisher King – then it’s just spectacular. The Man Who Killed Don Quioxte, as the film would have been titled, is troubled from the get-go. There are tight budgetary restrictions and issues with actor contracts and timing, but as glimpses of Gilliam’s ultimate vision come into view during pre-production, you can’t help but become excited about the work unfolding before you, egged on all the while by Gilliam’s exuberance and enthusiasm.
By the time production begins, however, things quickly come undone. The first day of filming is interrupted by the roar of passing F-16s from the NATO bombing range next to the shoot. An intense thunder and hailstorm wipes out another day of shooting and washes equipment away. Star Jean Rochefort comes down with a double hernia and is unable to ride a horse. After a single week of shooting, almost everything that can possibly go wrong has, and Gilliam is at the end of his tether. To see the man, who has so much invested in this film professionally and personally, try to bail water from the sinking ship is just tragic. The parallels made earlier on with Gilliam’s previous professional albatross, The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen (which I LIKED!) seem awful prophetic by the time they pull the plug.
It’s all a terrible pity, because from what little of the movie they managed to film and you get to see, it looks like it could have been spectacular. Gilliam is still trying to get the film made, so hopefully someday there will be a proper film to which Lost In La Mancha would be a fitting companion piece. In the meantime, however, I feel like I should read Cervantes’ original work, even though it’s a massive read – after all, it’s not as though I can just see the movie.
np – Bedhead / Beheaded