Lost In La Mancha (2003)
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Review Date: April 01, 2003
Director: Keith Fulton, Louis Pepe
Writer: Keith Fulton, Louis Pepe
Producers: Lucy Darwin
Terry Gilliam as himself
Johnny Depp as himself
Jeff Bridges as Narrator
This is a documentary about Terry Gilliam's dream production of Don Quixote, its pre-production, as well as its actual shooting days, during which time almost everything that can go wrong in a filmmaking process, seems to. This film provides us with a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the production and takes us behind all of its many scenes and decisions.
As per any other documentary on any topic, I've said it before and I'll say it again, the basic enthusiasm of each viewer will most likely be determined by his/her own interest in the subject matter at hand. In this case, the documentary is about the process of filmmaking, and more specifically, about the production of Terry Gilliam's THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE in Madrid, Spain. Is that a topic that interests you in the first place? If so, then you will surely get a kick out of this documentary, which essentially tracks the eccentric director during the film's pre-production and into its first week of actual shooting, during which time, pretty much anything and everything seems to go wrong. The documentary actually turns into the documentation of a disastrous filmmaking production caught on film. What I liked most about it was that it really provided you with an insight into the day-to-day minutia of creating a motion picture. As most of us already know by watching any of the "extras" on a dvd nowadays, the process is almost always a lot more elaborate than you might suspect, but in the case of this project, it seems as though no one, including the gung-ho director himself, knew what they were getting themselves into. Unfortunately for them, a string of "bad luck" also hits them on every single day of the production, including a soundstage that doesn't provide for the proper acoustics, noisy military jets flying over their outdoor shots, a storm/flood that washes away some of their equipment, a lead actor who is rushed to the hospital and suddenly cannot film anymore, horses that won't cooperate and much more.

For the director Gilliam, the strain of the day-to-day bad news eventually wears him down and much like the reputed Orson Welles and his life-long dream of the cinematic Don Quixote, it ultimately doesn't appear as though this production will be completed either. Basically, it's every director's worst nightmare come alive and as a major movie buff, it was fascinating experience to watch, especially in terms of the actual production details, the behind-the-scenes head-butting and of course...the scenes featuring the ultra-super-cool, Johnny Depp. One thing that I would have liked more in the documentary though would have been a greater explanation as to the responsibilities of each person. As is, it almost felt like nobody was ever in control of the film, or taking responsibility for their actions/inactions. That frustrated me as a viewer because I really wanted to dissect why the project started falling apart as it did. I understand that certain "force majeures" hit the production, but whose responsibility was it to cover their ass in that sort of case? Who was the person who had to make sure that there were no planes flying overhead? Who was the person who had to guarantee the contract with Vanessa Paradis, so that everyone knew when she was arriving? Who was supposed to train the horses, or hire the person to train the horses? Even though the director is ultimately responsible for the creative push of a film, I don't believe that all of these responsibilities fell directly upon Gilliam's shoulders, and I really would have liked to have been given more info on those matters.

In other words, this documentary goes a long way in providing us with an "entertaining" 90 minutes of a production gone terribly awry, but not so much in terms of the persons responsible for it and ways to avoid it in the future (maybe some sit-down interviews with all of the responsibles afterwards might've worked?). And I do appreciate that this film's point was to somehow illustrate that this was all part of the Don Quixote "curse", but that part was just a little too "touchy-feely" for me (can you tell that I'm a business graduate?) Give me some solid facts, figures and point some fingers, dammit! The film is "fun" to watch though with some of my favorite scenes including the one in which director Gilliam puts his balls on the chopping block and essentially threatens to quit if the producers fire his right-hand man as they seemed to be suggesting, as well as the one in which Johnny Depp is talking to a fish. Yeah, you read that correctly. It's a great sequence and provides just enough insight into Gilliam's mind to look forward to seeing the film eventually get made one day. Unfortunately for us, it doesn't appear as though there were enough karmic guides around the man this time around, so that he could channel his "love of chaos" into a completed motion picture. Luckily for us, it doesn't appear as though Gilliam has completely given up on the project yet, so who knows, maybe someday we'll see a sequel to this documentary entitled LOST IN LA MANCHA 2: THE GUY'S STILL TRYING TO FILM THE DAMN THING!
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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