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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 6 August, 2002, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
Lost in La Mancha

The ultimate disaster movie -

Terry Gilliam's disastrous attempts to make Don Quixote in "Lost in La Mancha".

(Edited highlights of the panel's review)


KIRSTY WARK:
Paul, for a moment, let's forget about the quality of the documentary, and tell me what you made of what befell Terry Gilliam.

PAUL MORLEY:
The sense that you say you can't quite believe what's going to happen next, it's a great sense of inevitability that this would happen if Gilliam was doing Don Quixote.

KIRSTY WARK:
What, F16 bombers?

PAUL MORLEY:
Absolutely. They say at the end of this that everything that could go wrong did.

But something about Gilliam, and the way he's made his films in the past, and how he has these great dreams and ambitions, you would feel that he must know by now that it will go wrong, that there would be these F16 bombers. They should've known that, but they kind of did know, because they knew for an hour a day.

KIRSTY WARK:
They knew there was a NATO bombing range.

PAUL MORLEY:
Surely that's enough not to go there. The fact that there is rain that comes down on the first day of shooting that turns the colour of the landscape different for the next day. You'd think he would've checked that.

KIRSTY WARK:
Checking the rain coming down?

PAUL MORLEY:
He would have checked that the colour would've changed the landscape, because it's a possibility.

They seem to cover so much in terms of preparation that they just seem to miss vast areas of how they should have been prepared. What would have almost been a better thing in the documentary, if we'd have seen the making of Lost In La Mancha, because there seems to be a lot of things missing somehow.

You want to see the other dimension too. As wonderful as it is to see a great thing befall the great Terry Gilliam, who I adore and always makes fantastic films, it also seems to be that there were certain things that were missing.

KIRSTY WARK:
A lot of questions in the documentary were missing.

PAUL MORLEY:
You sometimes thought, "Terry, how do you make your films? Are you letting us think that this is how you make your films? I think you are hiding something."

KIRSTY WARK:
Didn't you know that this fellow should have perhaps had a medical check-up before he was signed up at the age of 70, and he is a perfect-looking Don Quixote.

ALKARIM JIVANI:
He was obviously born for the part. You look at him and think, "This is the man who should play Don Quixote.

PAUL MORLEY:
Because he was born for the part, something was bound to befell him!

ALKARIM JIVANI:
I spent all of the time thinking it takes a lot of cheek to ask people to hand over a tenner to go and see a film about a film that doesn't exist.

Someone described it as a footnote to a text that isn't there, which gives you an idea of the status this has.

KIRSTY WARK:
To be fair, this documentary was originally meant for a television production. But it has now been released in the cinema with a 15-certificate, for some obscure reason. It was never actually destined for the cinema. It's not a cinema film.

ALKARIM JIVANI:
It's not, in terms of the way it's shot or structured. It's not cinematic, it's a television film. Even as a television film, they could happily shave 15 minutes off and it wouldn't be a problem.

But it does fit into an very established genre. There is things like Burden of Dreams, which is about Herzog's making of Fitzcarraldo. There's Heart of Darkness, which is about Coppola's making of Apocalypse Now.

Both those films are better examples of the genre, because what happens in Burden of Dreams is Fitzcarraldo has to transport a three deck boat, up through the jungle, up a mountain to an inland lake. They have problems with tropical diseases, in Heart of Darkness, somebody has a heart attack and there are drug problems.

What happens here is that there is a storm which lasts one afternoon, and the lead actor has a prostate problem. (ALL TALK AT ONCE)

PAUL MORLEY:
What about when the investors come, suddenly arriving from Germany. Fifty ordinary looking people who look like they are on a tourist trip.

KIRSTY WARK:
And these are people who you think are duped.

PAUL MORLEY:
They've put in $15 million, and you think, "You've put in $250,000 dollars each, and you look you're on a tourist trip."

KIRSTY WARK:
Rosie, as a journalist, what did you make of it? We didn't really speak to Johnny Depp, and we didn't really find out what the problem was with the producers?

ROSIE BOYCOTT:
I thought it was terrible, I thought it was incredibly boring and self-indulgent. I'd always quite liked Terry Gilliam up until then, and I came away not liking him. Nobody seemed to carry the can for this disaster.

There's one moment where someone screams, "Where's the director!" Apart from that, nobody is holding on to it.

All of the interesting things that I wanted to know, like what were these investors asking, what were the insurance company saying, why at the beginning were we suddenly told that $10 million has suddenly been withdrawn? Why did this happen, how did they get into this mess?

You don't get it at all. What you get is a self-indulgent thing of a lot of people standing around, often in car parks, saying, "What are we going to do now?" In six days, the whole film is over.

KIRSTY WARK:
It's also very reverential to Terry Gilliam.

PAUL MORLEY:
There is a sense that when Terry Gilliam finally does make Don Quixote that this will be part of the spin.

KIRSTY WARK:
Do you think he'll make it?

PAUL MORLEY:
He will make it.

KIRSTY WARK:
Did you find the glimpses of what he'd actually shot quite tantalising?

PAUL MORLEY:
Absolutely. The filming of the giants, and they are coming towards you, and Gilliam gets excited and says, "That is the trailer, coming soon!"

But for me, for all its banalities and its lack of journalistic integrity, so to speak, just to see the moment when Gilliam realises that he won't be able to make this film, and all this excitement he has He turns into like a Jack Nicholson character, and the whole of his life drains from his body.

ROSIE BOYCOTT:
Other people must have problems in films. After all, it was six days' worth of a problem. Couldn't they just have picked it up and gone on. They never told you any of this.

KIRSTY WARK:
There weren't any contingencies, there was no slack. The producers had winged it, basically, with $32 million.

ROSIE BOYCOTT:
If you are winging it, someone ought to have seen that they were trying to film under these fighters jets, which was a hilarious moment!

KIRSTY WARK:
Lost In La Mancha opened at selected cinemas today. Go if you want to see Terry Gilliam coming apart.

See also:

05 Apr 02 | Panel
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