Terry Gilliam directs John Neville, Sarah Polley and Eric Idle in this fantasy adventure where an ageing adventurer, whose very existence is the stuff of tall tales, quests to reassemble his old band of super powered cohorts to rescue a besieged city.
Folly. Whimsy. Bullshit. And at a scale that near bankrupted the production on the first week. There’s lots about this epic extravaganza of the imagination that would never be attempted now in such an ambitious combination: the on-location shoot, the rickety practical FX, the unknown leads, the zig zagging narrative, the period setting. I’m not saying we’ll never see a blockbuster (failed) again with some of these elements but never all together and so defiantly prominently. Gilliam is one of the great visualists, one the greatest agitators of neat plotlines and the uncluttered screen, one of the last true rebels who found his way (uncomfortably) into the studio system. His dreams are chaotic, meaningful, grainy and gargantuan. This has so many fine moments; Robin Williams as the King of the Moon, Uma Thurman emerging PG nude from an oyster shell like a Botticelli Angel, a race against a bullet, a sultan’s torture machine cum musical instrument, the JFK assassination remade in Napoleonic garb, the victor’s grin on the face of Neville’s gonad led titular protagonist. So it can be too hazardous to fully keep track of, and you can notice sequences where the planned scale has been fudged and cut back on by the moneymen… there’s still so much unique wonder on display here you can’t help but be swept along. Meta narratives and full scale battles, stunts and monstrosities. This is a true celluloid beauty, undeserving of its turkey reputation. So…it cost way too much and made hardly anything… Munchausen is the cinematic bastard that dreams are made of.
Perfect Double Bill: Time Bandits (1981)
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