TERRY GILLIAM, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

Terry Gilliam was the only American in Monty Python’s Flying Circus. He was the one who created all those lovely animations. He also acted in a few of the skits, most notably Cardinal Fang in The Spanish Inquisition.

Terry did not begin directing films until he was 31 and had left Monty Python. But his experience there strongly informed his work. Some might say warped. But I would not say that. Though some would say I am warped. But I would not say that either.

He had a thing for “trilogies”, as well as nifty, bizarre camera techniques. His first directorial trilogy was based on Imagination and included the films Time Bandits (1981), Brazil (1985) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988). His description of the theme is the “craziness of our awkwardly ordered society and the desire to escape it through whatever means possible,” first through the eyes of a child, then an adult, then an old geezer. All these scripts were written by himself.

He explored Americana in the ’90’s with The Fisher King (1991), 12 Monkeys (1995) and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998). These films scripts were all written by others. Perhaps He had writer’s cramp by now. Don’t know. And I find it curious that both sets of trilogies release years are exactly ten years apart.

Terry Gilliam’s films are extremely unique and usually recognizable for their highly imaginative surreal points of view coupled with a baroque look and historically and politically informed story lines. As well as the characters being completely mad while at the same time, the sole voice of sanity in the story.

He has since directed a stage show, Slava’s Diablo, directed and co-wrote the ill-fated The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which obtained financing based on Heath Ledger’s starring performance. Then Heath Ledger tragically died. Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell stepped in and saved the day for their friend. Though apparently, that wasn’t enough bad luck as Terry was hit by a bus and suffered a broken back during filming. He’s also directed an opera! He was up for directing the first Harry Potter, but Warner Brothers went with Christopher Columbus and Gilliam said he found the final product to be dull.

Terry Gilliam’s cachet in the film world is his brilliant imagination and creativity. He is also feared by studio “suits” because of the notorious history of his films wildly exceeding their budgets and schedules. Though I must say, from experience, that this is not always through any fault of his own. He’s a creative fellow, and time does not work for him the same way it does for the studios. Well, duh, just watch Time Bandits, hons! And you cannot blame floods, herniated discs in lead actors, and crooked producers on him. My theory is that he is a creative force of nature and nature just rears up to say “HOWDY!” when he works.

I doubt that it ever occurs to him that he is a late bloomer. I suspect he is the sort of fellow who lives solely in the immediate moment, and finds those of us who flit thither and yon between then and then to be tedious.

Terry Gilliam at IFC Center by AJ Wilhelm Oct. 2006

For the purposes of this series, he is a late bloomer. His films are delights. And I hope he keeps making them well into his 100’s and 200’s.

IB Crabby

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