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Awesome: 9.76%
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5 reviews, 11 user ratings

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Lost in La Mancha
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by Dr Nick

"So bizarre Gilliam himself couldn't have made it up"
4 stars

So you want to be a film director? Want to see your own bizarre imagination played out on big screens all over the world? You’ve watched hundreds of ‘making-of’ documentaries and come to the conclusion that it’s really not that much work. It might get a little stressful occasionally, but it always works out in the end. Think again.

For most of his filmmaking career Terry Gilliam has had a dream – to turn the book of Don Quixote into a film. He’s fantasised about it for as long as he can remember and has made the film in his head over and over again for years. It’s fair to say that the man is obsessed with the classic story of the delusional old knight and his trusted companion Sancho Panza. The look of amazement in Gilliam’s face in the opening shots of this documentary really says it all. This is a man who is finally seeing his dream come true.

Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe was allowed full access to Gilliam’s set and to the man himself, not surprising after their brilliant ‘The Hamster Factor’, documenting the process of making Gilliam’s ’12 Monkeys’. Lost In La Mancha starts off as a straight ‘making-of’ documentary. Gilliam arrives in Spain to start production of 'The Man Who Killed Don Quixote' and it's with childlike glee he’s introduced to the principal crew members. He jokes around with them, promising a lot of hard work but “with any luck you’ll protect me from making an utter fool of myself”.

Gilliam knows there’s a lot at stake. 'The Man Who Killed Don Quixote' was meant to be the most expensive film ever made solely with European funds and the sets being built look truly impressive. But he is prepared and ready for the task, knowing exactly what he wants. We get to see glimpses of the highly detailed storyboards, animated with Gilliam passionately reading the scene descriptions and dialogue over the images.

Unfortunately, the problems start early when one of the main financiers backs out. Already on an extremely tight budget, this is not good news. With all the actors having taken severe pay-cuts to be in the film, they’re also finding it difficult to schedule them all in for script readings. Never the man to back down when faced with difficulties Gilliam marches on. He picks his actors to play the parts of the giants, who will eventually eat Don Quixote, and the first proper screen tests are finally shot. When they turn out great, the morale is boosted and Gilliam once again seems ecstatic about the project.

From snippets of conversations between the crew members we get the feeling that they all think he’s in a bit over his head, but it is Terry Gilliam after all, so it’s shrugged off.

Things continue to go wrong. They have secured the last available sound stage in Madrid, but when they visit it turns out to be not much more than a warehouse. It’s still weeks before production and Gilliam starts talking about it being a jinxed project. And you can’t help but agreeing with him. Every problem they solve seem to be immediately replaced with another problem. Jean Rochefort, the actor playing Don Quixote, cancels his flight to Spain because of suspected prostate problems. He does arrive eventually and with Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis finally on site, the first script readings can finally take place. With the first day of production just days away it doesn’t give them much time. The crew struggles on believing that, as in the case with many films, most problems seem to solve themselves when shooting actally begins. They couldn’t be more wrong. The shoot finally begins and if they’ve only really seen the beginning of the problems. Military flying exercises ruins the sound, a storm floods the set and ruins most of the equipment. The insurance company won’t cover ‘acts of God’, the producers refuses to let Jean Rochefort get on his horse and he is eventually flown back to France indefinitely just as the European financiers visit the set to see what they’ve invested their money in. And all this in the first six days. It’s painful to watch as Gilliam goes through set-back after set-back, constantly switching from being excited to angry to depressed.

It’s amazing that Gilliam continues to allow Pepe and Fulton on set to document disaster after disaster tearing the whole project to shreds, never telling them to switch the camera off. It almost seems like he has given up himself, but that someone might as well get something out of his misery. And they stick with it, covering the worst of times as confidently as the best of times.

In the end Gilliam is desperately trying to keep the project going. With his trusted companion, 1st AD Phil Patterson, they're almost like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza themselves - one believing they can get through anything and the other thinking rationally but sticking with it anyway. When Patterson finally leaves the project we know the dream is over - Don Quixote is dead.

This account of one man’s lifelong dream being completely shattered is enough to make anyone think twice about directing. It's a heartbreaking, albeit fascinating insight into the world of professional filmmaking.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=5980&reviewer=345
originally posted: 05/24/05 08:11:22
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User Comments

6/08/08 AnnieG Excellent film . Lesson: read the book Don Quixote - you shall never see a film version. 4 stars
6/04/05 Mike Jozic In the spirit of Coppola's Hearts of Darkness, this is a must for fans of film! 5 stars
6/01/05 tatum Sad, but even I could see the writing on the wall; get a clue, TG! 4 stars
3/03/04 Agent Sands A very unique documentary including really cool footage from a movie you can't see. 4 stars
7/06/03 John Bale A must for film buffs, sadly shows the perils of Independant productions 4 stars
3/19/03 Cameron Slick An engrossing look at what can go wrong. 4 stars
3/17/03 John Rigler I recommend for anyone who HAS to watch all of the DVD extras. 5 stars
2/15/03 Heather Essential for Gilliam fans, here's hoping he has another attempt at DQ 4 stars
2/07/03 mr. Pink Insightful and truly horrific to watch at times. Good. 4 stars
8/18/02 Jerry Harrell Brilliant documentary! Plays out better than most fiction films! 5 stars
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  31-Jan-2003 (R)



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