Lost in La Mancha (2002)
Written & directed by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe. Photography, Louis Pepe. Editing, Jacob Bricca. Music, Miriam Cutler. Produced by Lucy Darwin. An IFC Films release. 89 minutes. R.
Messrs Fulton and Pepe are the two makers of this documentary about Terry Gilliam's film-to-be "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote." The two met at Temple University where they were graduate students in film.
They produced, directed or collaborated on several documentaries -or parts thereof - on filmmaking. Their major credit had been, until now, "The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of Twelve Monkeys"(1995) --about Gilliam's "Twelve Monkeys" which was a wide and wild expansion-variation of the famous futuristic French short "La Jetee" by Chris Marker.
Solo, Mr. Pepe made " Moments of Doubt" (1999), a trilogy about women trying to forge identities in their careers. It won Best Short Film at the 1999 Hamptons Festival.
Minneapolis-born (1940) (and by now with British citizenship) Terry Gilliam is the only American among the British holy dementia group of the Monty Pythons. He was and is a jack of all trades and master of all, including the making of the Pythons' splendid, ground-breaking, fully original animations and graphics. Monty Python is one of the epoch-making steps in film comedy, along with (mind you, this is a short list) Chaplin, Keaton, the Marx Brothers, the better screwball movies from the 1930s on, Preston Sturges, Billy Wilder, Woody Allen and such.
Gilliam is a protean artist whom many will call-for good reasons-a genius. Among his mind-blowing activities is the direction (and writing) of many features, several of them Monty Python. Also "Time Bandits," "Brazil," "The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen," "The Fisher King" etc.
Some time ago Gilliam began to work on a new picture, "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote." It was European-financed, and to be shot in Spain. Gilliam was able to round up, among others, Johnny Depp and Jean Rochefort respectively as Sancho Panza and Don Quixote. The movie was to be revisionist and include time travel -but more than this I cannot tell since the film was never made.
What Fulton and Pepe were planning to do, starting was a "Making OfŠ" documentary. What they were able to shoot was "The Unmaking of a Movie." In Madrid, the two filmmakers, clearly given "carte blanche" to shoot anything and everything, freely recorded all they wished from the pre-shooting, plans, projects, discussions and so on of the production team. And the many problems that surfaces: language blocks, missing players, technical problems (e.g the lack of soundproofing a stage), problems with horses, and moreŠ Then, as the feature's filming begins, flash floods that damage sets and equipment, bad weather, jet noises, actor, elderly Rochefort's health problems and much else. Difficulties keep escalating, problems become major troubles, troubles grow into messes. If anything can go wrong, it does.
Despite the tenacity of Gilliam and some of his people, the actual "Quixote" shooting lasted just six days -but unlike the Biblical seventh day, the Fulton-Pepe team continued to work and record the aftermath.
The documentary is excellent, lively, clever and intelligent (those two words are not necessarily synonymous,) instructive and often funny, but also sad. You don't know whether to laugh or cry.
It is certainly not the familiar type of "The Making of" films about films. These, in the majority of cases, while often illuminating can also be underlined by plugs and publicity, by blatant or discreet hyping and pats on the back -which, of course may be justified. Here, however, there's an element of Greek tragedy, or of what was said in Roman times: "Those whom the Gods want to destroy, they first make crazy." And, to stay with (pig) Latin, we have here a striking case of "filmus interruptus."