Friday, April 17, 2009

Just a spiel.

Tonight's DVD choice was Lost In La Mancha, a documentary about the making of Terry Gilliam's multimillion dollar movie, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Unfortunately, setback after setback meant that the movie was never finished despite the gazillions of money thrown into it. In the documentary, we see Gilliam delighting in his vision of Don Quixote - he is very decided about the smallest detail - only to have that vision thwarted by 'disasters' of various ilk: a weather 'disaster', a scheduling 'disaster' involving actors, a medical 'disaster', the list goes on.

It was hard not to draw a comparison with Werner Herzog's own calamity-ridden production of Fitzcarraldo, and ya' know, in my universe, when anything is compared against Herzog, Herzog always wins. So yes, there is a tremendous bias on my part... Gilliam comes off as a moaning, 'spoiled' big-production director: high standards and exacting, but not for as profound intentions as Herzog (yeahhh, can't stop me gushing about the Bavarian). Gilliam's expectations of a film set seem to be: lots of money (they had to 'scale the budget down' from $40m to $32m dollars), a proper studio with perfect acoustics (not the echoing warehouse that he is presented with), maquettes of the large constructions eg the windmill for his team to work out aerial camera angles, extras who rehearse, etc.

You wouldn't find all that on a Herzog set because Herzog is about working with the moment and what you've got. Hell, he doesn't even care if the lighting is different within the same scene. Whereas in Lost In La Mancha, it seems like Gilliam is not flexible about a lot of things that cannot be fixed, like the weather. I dunno, I guess I'm just used to Herzog's 100% can-do attitude to filmmaking and Gilliam's was the complete opposite. Herzog, for eg, wouldn't bother with screenshots (where the actors are photographed in full dress and makeup to get the perfect lighting) or storyboards.

"Storyboards are the instruments of cowards!" - Herzog quote. Haha.

Well, I can't say that I am disillusioned by this documentary, since I've never really been a Terry Gilliam fan. The only film of his I could watch more than once is - Brazil. Which is what frustrates me about his method: all that Hollywood extravagance & yet I liked only one of his films. (I wouldn't watch the Monty Python films more than once, and after all, he co-directed those.)

According to, if you like this film, you will like Burden of Dreams which is Les Blank's documentary about the making of Herzog's Fitzcarraldo.

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