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Director Terry Gilliam is the latest filmmaker to try and bring Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra's "Don Quixote de la Mancha" to the big screen, the movie to be called The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Before filming even begins, Gilliam, who has moved from Hollywood studio to European financing, will have to scale back his vision as his budget has been slashed from $40 million to $32 million, still astronomical by European standards. But Gilliam is a dreamer, much like his title character, and his vision for the movie is uncompromising, meaning with the reduced budget that there is no margin for error and that some of his department heads may have to achieve miracles with their allotted moneys. During pre-production and actual filming, what Gilliam does not foresee is contractual and health issues with his actors, and the effects of Mother Nature. The question is does Gilliam have a Plan B if/when things go wrong. Written by
Fulton and Pepe embarked on their second feature about director Terry Gilliam intending to make a television documentary about the development and pre-production of Gilliam's long-awaited passion project. Having intimate knowledge of Gilliam's chaotic working methods, they knew they were in for something dramatic. But they had no idea that the story would develop into its own quixotic tragedy. After the failure of Gilliam's production, Fulton and Pepe were wary of finishing their film. Gilliam assured them that "someone has to get a film out of this. I guess it's going to be you." See more »
Thanks to DVD, we've all become accustomed to seeing `inside' documentaries about the making of some of our favorite films. But what of those films that for whatever reason never end up seeing the light of day? Are there any lessons to be learned from examining the making (or near making) of those works? This is the questioned posed by `Lost in La Mancha,' a behind-the-scenes chronicle of director Terry Gilliam's attempt to fulfill his decade-long dream of bringing Cervantes' `Don Quixote' to the big screen, a project that ended up in heartbreaking, catastrophic failure for both the filmmaker and the gifted crew with which he was working.
Directors Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe did not, of course, set out to record such a debacle. Like all the people involved in the making of `The Man Who Killed Don Quixote' a film intended to star Jean Rochefort and Johnny Depp
the documentary filmmakers assumed that Gilliam and his crew would end up
with an impressive finished product and that their own work would serve as little more than supplemental material on a future DVD release of the film, certainly not a theatrical release in its own right. What none of them foresaw was the series of almost Biblical disasters that would ultimately doom the film to a state of perpetual nonexistence. Flash floods, health problems, nervous investors and bottom line insurance agents all eventually conspired to prevent Gilliam's dream from becoming a reality. Thus, what became a bust for Terry Gilliam turned into a boon for Fulton and Pepe.
With the benefit of hindsight, the filmmakers ensure that the parallels between Don Quixote and Gilliam himself are never far from the viewer's mind. Gilliam, a maverick director whose movies have always tested the boundaries of the film medium, is clearly an artist and a visionary obsessed with impossible dreams of his own, but dreams that inspire those around him to strive for a greatness not always nurtured by the mundane realities of the everyday world. The fact that, in this particular case, those realities intervened to bring his vision crashing back to earth only completes the connection to the Quixote figure. Gilliam spends most of his time in this film tilting at his own windmills, only to find that the vagaries of fate are more terrifying than any giants Quixote might have imagined. The documentary also notes that Gilliam is not the only major director to have been stymied in his attempt to adapt this material; the great Orson Welles failed to complete his version of `Don Quixote' as well. The irony of these two innovative cinema giants both failing with THIS particular material pervades the film with an eerie sense of doom and foreboding.
`Lost in La Mancha' is an instructive film on a technical level, but also immensely sad on an emotional one. Because we know from the beginning that this venture is doomed to failure, even the moments of hope and optimism early on in the film carry with them an air of fatalistic melancholy. This pre-knowledge also turns the many admittedly humorous moments into genuine black comedy.
It is always painful to see genius and creativity choked off at the root, especially since the few glimpses we get of actual completed footage hint at what a fine production this `Don Quixote' might have been. As to Gilliam, one can only hope that he will continue to pursue his impossible dream despite all the roadblocks reality has set in his way. Don Quixote would have wanted it that way.
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