A hugely talented but socially isolated computer operator is tasked by Management to prove the Zero Theorem: that the universe ends as nothing, rendering life meaningless. But meaning is what he already craves.
Toby, a disillusioned film director, becomes pulled into a world of time-jumping fantasy when a Spanish cobbler believes him to be Sancho Panza. He gradually becomes unable to tell dreams from reality.
José Luis Ferrer,
Pre-teen Jeliza-Rose's parents are hopeless drug addicts. When pa, rocker Noah, finds ma's OD'd, he fears to be charged with homicide and takes Jeliza along to his ma's place, in a desolate country region. With Noah dead in his chair, the girl mentally transfers to a fantasy world she and her doll heads enter magically. Jeliza's adventures also star the crazy locals, notably Dell, and Dell's grown but intellectually disabled brother Dickens.Written by
In an effort to promote the opening weekend of this film, Director Terry Gilliam crashed the ticket line for The Daily Show (1996). He signed autographs, told jokes, and took photos with fans, holding a sign proclaiming: "Studio-less Film Maker, Family to Support, Will Direct for Food". He is quoted as saying, "This is the state of independent film making. You got to get out on the street and beg again. We have no shame anymore, just out on the streets hustling. The first weekend is everything, if it doesn't do well the first weekend, it dies." See more »
The map of Jutland misspells the West Jutland harbor city of Esbjerg as Ebsjerg. See more »
Having watched Terry Gilliam's Tideland just a few hours ago, I sat down to write a review and find that I can't. I'm still too angry.
Not at Gilliam, no. I am angry because I half-dreaded turning on the movie to begin with. Critics largely reviled Tideland on its (minimal) American release -- Rotten Tomatoes calculates its positive receptions at 27%. And a fair number of online commentators, even fans of the director, have branded the movie as "awful," "a mess," "disappointing," etc., etc. So, while I felt interest in Tideland, I put off watching it. The reviews made me wary and I hated to see Gilliam flop. But today it came from Netflix and I thought, why not, and popped it in.
And now I am angry -- angry because I cannot believe this beautiful, scary, funny, mesmerizing, heart-wrenching movie is the same one discussed in all those reviews. Have I stumbled on some unique director's cut that no one else got to see? Or have I misunderstood the purpose of movies?
At the beginning of the movie Gilliam himself appears, in black-and-white, like Edward Van Sloan at the beginning of Frankenstein, to inform us that we may find the movie shocking, but that it should be seen as through the eyes of a child -- innocent. One can take this prologue either as a bold stroke or a move of desperation, but either way, he's right. Little Jeliza Rose (played by an astounding Jodelle Ferland) goes through absolute hell, set adrift in a bare landscape by a heroin-addicted father (Jeff Bridges). Having no protection, no support, no food, and nothing to do, she builds a new reality out of, simply, play.
The redemption of imagination is Gilliam's Great Theme, and has featured in all his movies, but never I think with the depth of feeling displayed here. The camera glides and bobs and darts, low to the ground, a child's eye view, and the tone of the movie stays true throughout, without a whiff of sentimentality. Jeliza's situation is bleak and terrifying, but she's occupied with other and more pressing issues -- conversing with squirrels, squabbling with her dolls, and befriending her alarming neighbors: a witchlike taxidermist and her mentally retarded brother.
But she's no fool, and Gilliam isn't either. The dreadful reality is always present, and Jeliza knows what's what; she possesses that paradoxical childhood perspective that allows a doll's head to be "just a doll's head" and at the same time a living person with an identity. The movie shows us the world as her imagination transforms it; she spins terror and tragedy into fable.
This movie staggered me; it's a genuine work of art, and it left me in tears. If that puts me at odds with 75% of the critical consensus, I'll live with that. When I think of the endless trite garbage that these same critics routinely praise, garbage that often wins awards or breaks box-office records, comfortable and self-congratulating hackwork that rarely has a scrap of the kind of creative courage or honesty of something like Tideland, it frankly makes me question what a good movie actually IS. Do feel-good escapism and drearily unnatural "naturalism" really comprise the height of cinematic expression? And does the idea of being made genuinely uncomfortable by art, genuinely challenged -- surely art's primary function -- have any current market value?
In short, if Tideland is not a good movie, then what are movies for?
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