Dr Gilliam, I Presume?

The Imaginarium of Doctor Gilliam is the most complete retrospective of Terry Gilliam’s work ever assembled, here in Milan. They even have the excellent TV show The Last Machine, on the origins of cinema, which Gilliam presented.

In case of bumping into the reformed Python and BRAZIL auteur, I boned up by watching TIDELAND at last before I came out here. It was quite impressive, and made up for the rather sour taste left by the Weinstein-Gilliam “collaboration” THE BROTHERS GRIMM. I identified with TIDELAND’s child heroine, since she has a collection of dolls’ heads, like me. Here’s mine:

And here is Djeliza-May’s in TIDELAND:

Festival organiser Ben ushered me into The Presence of Greatness and I shook the mighty hand (Gilliam has a mighty head, shaped like a dodgem-car, and mighty gnarled and chunk hands. If Ernest Brgnine was a pair of hands, he would be these. “You were pointed out to me in your T-short and shorts,” he said, “They said, ‘He’s from Scotland, he thinks this is NICE weather.’ I do too!”

We discussed the Filmmakers’ House, which I recommended he visit. A leaking art-deco meat market (“The film business!” he chortled) seems like a Gilliam kind of place. So maybe he’ll show up to party later (he has more stamina in his 60s than I do at 40, it seems).

And in other news, they’re showing my film in the park by the castle tonight at 10.45. The weather seems to have been improving slowly all day so I hope it’s a sunny night.

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8 Responses to “Dr Gilliam, I Presume?”

  1. I think Gilliam is one of the few truly original visual stylists in the Anglo-Saxon world. Although his career is fairly uneven. I didn’t care for most of the stuff he did in the 90’s but they were still rich and highly creative film-making. To me his best are his earliest films, ”Time Bandits”, ”Brazil” and ”Baron Munchausen”.

    I think that just as admirable as his film-making is his persistence. He’s had pretty much as bad a luck as most film-makers can have. His passion projects never became box-office success and the sort and he’s never got the popular success that should go with his being a populist film-maker. The world certainly needs more Gilliam films.

  2. I’m a huge fan of his Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas with theb great Johnny Depp. A woman I know who works in the flim clip trade supplied the vintage clips for that film. She says nealry EVERYONE she has worked with in film has been an enormous asshole– except Terry Gilliam. She couldn’t stop saying great things about him.

    Brazil is of course his masterpiece. He needn’t have done anything else after that, hving made that major contribution to the cinema, and human sanity. But The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is quite marvelous too, especially for Uma’s grand entrance as Venus on the Half Shell, and everything with the wonderful Valentina Cortese. Sarah Polley had a horrible time on the shoot, but she survived to to become a great filmmaker in her own right.

  3. Thurman, nervous, did a little dance on the half-shell to distract herself and Gilliam watched, entranced, as she thus recreated a cartoon he had done 25 years earlier.

    He’s talked about suing George W Bush and Dick Cheney for plagiarising the script of Brazil.

  4. The best part is that Gilliam can SUE George Bush. He’s not an American anymore. He belongs to England now.

  5. Uma Thurman is indeed fantastic in ”Baron Munchausen” but I had issues with her section because Gilliam seemed to be making the usual tired point about beautiful girls marrying big lugs(here incarnated as Oliver Reed). Otherwise it’s a feast for the eyes like few other films.

    Agreed that ”Brazil” is Gilliam’s best.

  6. Gilliam is one of those filmmakers whose films I could watch, and commentary tracks listen to, all the time. He really seems like a nice guy, and refreshingly unguarded in his comments (there’s not many people who would be willing to bless the release of a making of documentary about their failed attempts to make a personally important film), which is probably what rubs some people up the wrong way! Though my liking him just makes it even more upsetting that he’s had so many troubles in persuing his craft.

  7. The ONLY bad story I ever heard about Gilliam was Terry Zwigoff’s encounter. He was leaving a studio having failed to raise money for Crumb, when he meets Gilliam in the parking lot. He recalls that TG worked alongside Crumb at Help! magazine for Harvey Kurtzman (whose name is referenced as Ian Holm’s character in Brazil) and he knows the Pythons are all millionaires so he starts pitching. Gilliam breaks in “Oh, you’re looking for a handout?” and gives him a dollar.

    That’s kind of assholish, but at least he tried to be funny about it. Mark it down as a failed joke.

    Really Arthur, you should blame Greco-Roman mythology for the Vulcan & Venus dynamic.

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