The Man Who Killed Don Quixote Reviews
Our "hero" is a successful commercial director who sees a DVD of a movie he made 10 years ago before he sold out, when he had integrity. He goes on a quest and learns that he is selfish. He learns he ruined people's lives. He kills one of them and "saves" another. Despite his selfishness, everything really is about him. Rich people are evil. Women are things. Artists are insane. Isn't it wonderful?
The challenges of creating so much, on a limited budget, are explored a little bit; in the mini-documentary at the end of the credits. It explains how that entire extended party sequence, was all shot in one night, and some of the other challenges they faced.
See the two documentaries by Keith Fulton and Luis Pepe:
1. Lost in La Mancha (2002) - this started out a making of film, but changed into why the film would probably never get made documentary.
2. He Dreamed of Giants (2018) - (still in editing) which covers the full history of the film, and the multiple attempts to get it made.
The movie opens with Quixote maniacally charging a windmill to 'save' the fair maiden Dulcinea from a giant monster, but instead he gets tangled up in its turbine blades. Then someone yells "CUT!" For a second it's as if we're watching a documentary about Gilliam's experiences making this movie but the fourth wall drops and what we're actually watching is an expensive TV commercial being filmed by frustrated film director Toby Grisoni (Adam Driver). Toby thinks shooting the commercial in Spain is a big mistake, but we soon learn that he isn't happy with anything. With pressure mounting to finish the shoot Toby takes off on a motorcycle and stops in a nearby village to clear his head. He instantly recognizes that he shot a student film there 10 years before--a film that coincidentally was about Don Quixote! ¬†Toby also finds Javier (the remarkable Jonathan Pryce), the old cobbler he originally recruited to play Quixote, still alive and still dressed in his Quixote armor costume. And Javier is thoroughly convinced he's the chivalrous Quixote himself and that Toby is his squire Sancho Panza returned from afar to help him serve the fair maiden Dulcinea!
In typical Terry Gilliam fashion Toby, the every-man protagonist, gets swept away by 'Quixote's' madness and finds himself on the run from the law, dodging 'terrorists', fighting a knight that sparkles in sunlight, meeting a bathing beauty under a waterfall, and returning full circle to the television ad campaign. Toby also seems to travel through time and lands in the 16th Century world of Don Quixote, running and hiding from Spanish soldiers. ¬†For better or worse this narrative-in-flux turns the movie on its head and makes it difficult for Toby (and the audience) to tell what's real and what's fantasy. Bureaucrats have been a favorite Gilliam antagonist so it's no surprise to see Toby's boss (a one dimensional Stellan Skarsgard) and Russian investor Alexei (the always unshaven Jordi Molla) making life difficult for everyone in the story. Adam Driver gives Toby an exhilarating sense of continuity considering how many different things his character goes through. ¬†Jonathan Pryce as Quixote (wearing Rochefort's original costume) reveals a stalwart yet sympathetic man whose lunacy is matched by duty. ¬†Olga Kurylenko, Joana Ribeiro, Stellan Skarsgard, Sergi Lopez, and many others are all superb. ¬†This is Terry Gilliam's first digitally-shot feature and cinematographer Nicola Pecorini delivers a beautiful feature, and composer Roque Banos provides a warm and simple score.
Is "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" a good movie? I'll be frank. It has way too much profanity and that's a big criticism coming from me. But with the exception of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" any Gilliam film is a great thing! ¬† He's a proven visual genius that gives his audience an outside-the-box experience Every Single Time. I don't think Gilliam's noble quest to complete this film has prevented him from making a thoughtful and adventurous tale--the source material is a perfect fit to his sensibilities. I was expecting him to get overwhelmed by all the minutia but he strikes a remarkable balance between damaged characters and ridiculous plot, which is no small feat for a movie that's over two hours long. I admire Gilliam's tenacity more than most. From his days with Monty Python through all of his films he has been the voice for so many underdogs "King Arthur, Sam Lowry, Jack Lucas, the Brothers Grimm, and now Toby Grisoni. Gilliam is that one passionate guy standing against a corrupt system while everyone else mindlessly bends over and takes it. Gilliam to our rescue! How chivalrous, indeed.
Terry Gilliam hasn't made a great film for twenty years. He's 77 years old now and, based on his last four films, I don't think we're going to see another Gilliam masterpiece. Fear and Loathing was the last of his great works.
Zero Theorem was okay. The Brothers Grimm was awful. Imaginarium was awful. Tideland was interesting, but overcooked. I like Don Quixote least of the lot. I got more than halfway through before giving up and walking out. Pryce's performance is grating. Driver's moustache makes his character even less likeable than he already is. And, the plot is an absolute mess.
Gilliam is trying too hard, these days. The passion is no longer there, so he's forcing himself to imitate his former glory. Focusing more and more on bright costumes and wigs and over-acting. Tilda Swinton's character in Zero Theorem is embarrassing and Jeff Bridges' mouth movements in Tideland look like a dog eating toffee. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is worse (in some ways) than Quixote. They should have recast after Heath Ledger died. It is one of the most disastrous train-wrecks I've ever witnessed. But, it's less annoying than Quixote.
I don't think it's a coincidence (or a "curse") that cast members died on Gilliam or that he struggled to make Quixote for decades. People die.
Gilliam's career ate itself, like Tim Burton. Both of them imitate themselves, poorly. Their films are reconstructed from fragments of other films, like Frankenstein's monster.
I wish Gilliam just made an adaptation of Quixote, rather than trying ‚" and failing ‚" to be clever, by adding layers of this and layers of that... until the he ruins the entire film. But, I wouldn't sit through it - regardless - if he cast Pryce as Quixote. He's a good actor, don't get me wrong, but he sucks as Quixote. Gilliam only cast him because he's one of his regulars. If he'd never worked with him before, there's no way he'd cast him. I'd prefer almost everybody else he considered for the role, except maybe Michael Palin. John Hurt would have been so much better for the part. And Johnny Depp would have been better as Toby. But, still, like I said, the film is a mess... and there's no fixing that by swapping actors around.
Though not as engaging as it could be, often feeling like Gilliam is venting his thirty years of frustrations making the project, the film's perpetual evolution and bleeding loss of reality and fantasy, leave it never short of being a thoroughly captivating, fascinating cinematic experiment.
In addition, the impeccable Jonathan Pryce shines in the titular role while Gilliam simultaneously adapts and deconstructs Cervantes' novel, combines his second drafts' modern and period elements in a purposefully surreal narrative, and adds an additional meta commentary on the nightmarish making of the film and filmmaking in general.