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  • Colin Fraser


TWO AND A HALF STARS Dreams and reality merge for a director who meets Don Quixote in La Mancha.

Adam Driver, Jonathan Pryce


When directors talk abut their films being ‘years in the making’, no one knows what the means better than Terry Gilliam. His pet-project about Don Quixote has consumed three decades of his life, one bedevilled by casting problems, financial problems, rewrites, reshoots and a catastrophic flood that sank the entire set and took Jonny Depp and Jean Rochefort with it (figuratively speaking).

No doubt Gilliam is equal parts fatalistic and Quixotic about the journey that finally got him here but then, when hasn’t he been? The director is famed for wildly uneven output that has brought us films that are as brilliant as they are an unbridled mess, consider THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN or THE BROTHERS GRIMM. THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE is no different. But then, could it ever have been otherwise?

“The character takes you over at a certain point,” he told, which might account for the relentless craziness of this story about Toby (Adam Driver), a commercial director who finds himself in the same Spanish village he used a decade earlier to film a student production about Don Quixote. He used locals for added authenticity and his star (Jonathan Pryce) is still there, wearing armour and riding a horse, now convinced he actually is Don Quixote. To complicate matters, he’s also convinced that Toby is his long lost friend, Sancho Panza.

With so many rewrites and casting recalculations (among others, Robert Duvall, Jack O’Connell and John Hurt joined Depp and Rochefort at some point or another), it’s small wonder that what finally hit the screen is something of a brilliant mess. It’s typically Gilliam - mad and frenetic, chaotic yet sublime, wildly entertaining and suffocatingly boring, all in the space of two action-packed hours. It feels like he’s in a desperate rush to get it finished before some new catastrophe visits the project - and who could blame him.

No doubt much of this mayhem is intentional. THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE is clearly a personal film that seeks to reveal the windmill-tilting mania residing at the core of every artist; one that applies to Toby, Quixote and Gilliam. It also seeks to address artistic accountability: Toby’s response to the villagers he affected has parallels for Gilliam after his experience shooting MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL. It goes deeper of course, and broader, weirder but more often it’s just plain silly. At its best, we’re reminded how much the world needs dreamers like Quixote and Toby. At its worst, it’s an indulgent mess of the unintended kind.

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