Movie Review: The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)

Title: The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
Release Date: 19 May 2018
Director: Terry Gilliam
Production Company: Alacran Pictures | Tornasol Films | Kinology | Entre Chien et Loup | Ukbar Filmes | El Hombre Que Mato a Don Quijote AIE | Carisco Producciones AIE | Recorded Picture Company

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is reminiscent of The Fisher King in that that protagonist must deal with redeeming himself for past offenses with the help of someone who is delusional.  It also reminds me of Time Bandits in the way it moves among places and times to increasingly surreal settings.  And it is like The Adventures of Baron Munchausen in that it has a brilliant set-up and design but somehow fails to deliver on a great premise.  In short, it is a Terry Gilliam film through and through. And it is one that is very close to his heart in that it took him 29 years to realize, as documented in Lost in La Mancha.

Toby Grummett (Adam Driver) is a self-centered director filming a commercial in rural Spain which is not going well.  He flashes back to his student movie, an adaptation of Don Quixote made with with non-professional actors from a Spanish village. Returning to the village he learns that the film had long-lasting negative effects on its participants.  These include Javier (Jonathan Pryce) who has come to believe that is actually Don Quixote, and Angelica (Joana Ribeiro), who has essentially became a courtesan for the Russian oligarch Alexei Miiskin (Jordi Mollà).

The film starts really well with Toby cast by Javier as his Sancho Panza and joining him on his quest.  It’s especially effective with Toby traveling in time between the present day and medieval Spain, which may be dreams or may be costumed locals, depending on the moment.  But towards the third act the film goes off the rails and just becomes a jumbled mess of ideas and images that don’t really seem to fit the established story.  The final scenes are absolutely excellent, but it’s not enough to make up for the fact that everything leading up to it did not earn this finale.

Rating: **1/2

Movie Review: Lost in La Mancha (2002)

Title: Lost in La Mancha
Release Date: 30 August 2002
Director: Keith Fulton | Louis Pepe
Production Company: IFC Films

Following up on rewatching Hearts of Darkness recently, I had to revisit my other favorite Filmmaking Fiasco documentary, Lost in La Mancha. This film documents director Terry Gilliam’s attempt to film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote on location in Spain in 2000.  Gilliam’s movie, then starring Johnny Depp, Jean Rochefort, and Vanessa Paradis, was the most expensive film project financed entirely within Europe.  From the start, this film production is on a knife’s edge and needs everything to go right to keep the filming on time on on budget.

Things go very wrong. Location shooting is marred by NATO jets flying overhead and a severe thunderstorm that causes flash flooding that damages the set and equipment.  But the biggest problem is when Rochefort suffers a herniated disc and is not well enough to return to filming.  The insurers and the investors pull the plug and production on the film ceases.  The final sequences of the film are heartbreaking to watch, especially since the film that was shot looks like it would be pretty good.

Much as Francis Ford Coppola is compared to Kurtz in Hearts of Darkness, Gilliam is compared with Don Quixote.  The comparison may seem trite, but it really does fit.  Apart from this being a good fiasco story, Lost in La Mancha is also one of the best behind-the-scenes documentaries of filmmaking.  It’s really fascinating to see all the people and moving parts that need to work together in order to make a film, or in this case, to fail to make a film.

Rating: ****