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  Man Who Killed Don Quixote, The O What A Knight
Year: 2018
Director: Terry Gilliam
Stars: Adam Driver, Jonathan Pryce, Stellan Skarsgård, Olga Kurylenko, Jordi Mollà, Joana Ribeiro, Rossy de Palma, Sergi López, Jason Watkins, Hovik Keuchkerian, Paloma Boyd, Bruno Sevilla, Jorge Calvo, Antonio Gil, Rodrigo Poisón, Antonio de la Cruz, Filipa Pin
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Weirdo, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Toby (Adam Driver) is an American film director who despite being halfway through his career, may be past his prime as he is currently in Spain shooting a television commercial that is based around the story of Don Quixote. Not coincidentally, around ten years ago he had a chance to achieve greatness with a black and white, arthouse film of that same Cervantes story, but it has not endured as he would have preferred, hence he is now employed making the advert. On the set, his boss (Stellan Skarsgård) arrives with his attractive wife (Olga Kurylenko) in tow, who Toby has a liking for, not knowing that she will be the cause of his arrest and a meeting with someone from his past...

That someone being Don Quixote himself, well, sort of, played by Jonathan Pryce with a cod-Spanish accent and in full armour, including weaponry. The reason for this is convoluted, to say the least, but the same could go for why writer and director Terry Gilliam made this film in the first place, as it was not the first place at all, it was his second run at getting the story down on camera. Notoriously, and just try and mention this movie without recourse to bringing up its production history, he had tried before throughout the nineteen-nineties to complete this, or even get it off the ground, but it was seemingly not to be as the gods of cinema cursed the project with terrible ill fortune throughout.

With his original cast either dead or moved on, he managed to get the thing completed with Driver and old cohort Pryce, and released in somewhat piecemeal fashion across the world where it was treated with the typical reactions of indifference or a mild, "He got that finished? Well, I never." What it did not get was a huge audience, and it was a mark of how far his star had diminished as one of the great cult directors of the twentieth century that by the twenty-first he was making more headlines for putting his foot in his mouth than anything he was releasing as a film. Was this Quixote effort worth the wait for those Gilliam fans who considered themselves diehards, or otherwise?

It was a Gilliam film, one he wanted to make, that was for certain, and if you were attuned to his "world on the edge of chaos" sensibilities then you would get some satisfaction from it, but as an experience the chaos had taken over and the actors were forced to go very big in performances to make themselves heard. It did look recognisably part of the auteur's canon, if that was your bag, with its busy frame stuffed with detail, but it did become difficult to keep up with early on thanks to the Gilliam touch turning more slapdash than you imagine he intended. The plot was basically a mishmash of his earlier work, a bit of The Fisher King here, a touch of Baron Munchhausen there, and a tone oddly reminiscent of part Orson Welles obsessiveness, part Blake Edwards' S.O.B. with its jaded quality hard to ignore: this was not a young man's film, despite its energy.

The plot was a spin on Don Quixote's lack of ability to recognise fact from fiction, here transformed into a time shifting mash up between Toby's present on the set of his film, with all his actors and assorted others, and the seventeenth century past where the "real" Quixote, a deluded knight, mistakes him for his squire Sancho Panza. The point apparently being, a filmmaker like Gilliam was the knight, who would carry along the audience in their fantasy conception of the world as long as they were willing, only there comes a time when the credits roll and you have to accept that the images and sounds you have seen were merely a fantasy, somebody else's view of what the world is like. If any filmmaker was dedicated to conjuring up a vivid concoction such as that, it was Gilliam, and if this late effort never gathered the poignancy, or even the humour, that it aimed for, there was a curious, nearly crushed nobility in its endeavours, folly or otherwise. Whether it would have been better first time around was a mystery. Music by Roque Baños.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Terry Gilliam  (1940 - )

Endlessly imaginative American director and animator who gained fame as one of the Monty Python team. He co-directed the Pythons' films Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python's Life of Brian and Monty Python's Meaning of Life, but also helmed his own projects, starting with Jabberwocky and Time Bandits.

The brilliant Brazil was beset with production problems, and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen was nearly a complete disaster. After that, Gilliam directed other people's stories: The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Brothers Grimm. 2006's controversial Tideland returned Gilliam to independent filmmaking, while his failed attempt to bring Don Quixote to the screen was documented in the painful Lost in La Mancha.

His next, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, survived the death of its lead actor, and The Zero Theorem was a melancholy sci-fi which proved he could work quickly and efficiently after all. He finally succeeded with The Man Who Killed Don Quixote in 2018.

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