Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Marginalia 9.8.10: Margilliamalia

  • Production on Terry Gilliam's long-suffering Don Quixote adaptation has apparently collapsed...again. The first incarnation of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote began production in September of 2000, but came to a screeching halt - or, uh, several fairly bellowing halts - after star Jean Rochefort fell seriously ill, the production crew couldn't record any of the sound because of a nearby NATO target practice site, and a series of flash floods and hailstorms destroyed a sizable amount of equipment and physically altered the look of Bardenas Reales, where the film was being shot. Fortunately for those of us who know that the account of a failed film production is often more interesting than the end product, documentary filmmakers Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe were on hand to film the whole sordid ordeal. The resulting film (2002's Lost in La Mancha) sits at a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • In 2008, Gilliam managed to get the rights to the film back from the insurance company who had basically repossessed the script (following a $15 million insurance claim) and had even secured Robert Duvall and Ewan McGregor to star in the thing. But Variety is reporting that this new version of the film is apparently back in development hell following the "collapse" of financing a month and a half ago. In all seriousness, can't somebody cut this guy a fucking break? To my knowledge, the guy has never made a film that didn't involve casting, writing, financing, or studio problems. Most of our readers are probably aware of the problems that plagued the production of last year's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, but those looking for a tragicomic tour through a troubled genius's resume should take a trip over to Dreams, a Terry Gilliam fanzine/clearinghouse for collective frustration.
  • But the most frustrating thing about this story might be that the end product (should it ever surface) probably won't even be all that great. Brazil is an undisputed classic, but the rest of Gilliam's films rarely rise above the "interesting, but problematic" tag. And even that film isn't without its issues. The biggest problem with Parnassus, for example, was not that its star died halfway through production. Rather, Doctor Parnassus was merely "good" because of its half-baked characters and limp storytelling. The rest of his filmography mostly suffers from the same issues, but the majesty and inventiveness of Terry Gilliam's vision are enough to keep me coming back. Consequently, I'll probably see whatever poorly-conceived, lazily-plotted beauty Gilliam comes out with next. As long as it has Tom Waits in it (via The A.V. Club).
Note: You'll notice that this week's Marginalia focused on just one story. I thought posting a rambling, overlong piece was something of a tribute to Gilliam's problematic legacy. Plus, I just couldn't get everything into one bullet point.

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