Lost in La Mancha (2002)

Directed by: Keith Fulton, Louis Pepe

Starring: Terry Gilliam, Johnny Depp, Jeff Bridges (Narration), Cast & Crew of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

Awards: Won Golden Satellite Award for Best Documentary DVD (2004)

Concluding my three part look at documentaries dealing with the making of films, let us take a look at Terry Gilliam and the doomed production of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Terry Gilliam has a history of having a rather rough go at getting his “visions” made. The director had a long drawn out fight with the studio and producers over Brazil that dragged into the news media and got the critics involved. The Adventures of Baron Münchhausen went way over budget and was buried during it’s stateside release. These are but a few of the difficulties that Gilliam has had to face with his pictures, but at least all these films have been finished and saw the light of day. Don Quixote was not so fortunate.

In Lost in La Mancha, we get an exclusive insider’s look at a failed production that showed much promise until things quickly collapse as one disaster occurs after another. First problem is what seems to be a recurring theme for Gilliam, a creative vision that exceeds his budget. Sometimes this can be a beneficial problem as it forces productions and directors to be more creative and less wasteful (ahem, Mr. Lucas…). In this case, however, it proves disastrous further down the road. The second mistake made is hiring an actor who is advanced in his age that will be required to do physical work that he is not capable of doing. While fitting the role perfectly, there is something to be said for using a younger actor and relying on makeup and wardrobe if the role calls for it. Finally, shooting in the great outdoors is often problematic, especially when done in a desert canyon that is prone to flash flooding.

These are but a few of the problems that befall the cast and crew of the film. Unfortunately, enough happens that the film gets canceled only 6 days into production. The insurance company that insured the picture ends up getting the rights to the screenplay and everyone is sent home. It is said that Terry Gilliam has gotten the rights back and may someday soon make another attempt at finishing what he started. Lost in La Mancha not only shows the rise and fall of Gilliam’s ambitious film, but also documents the cursed history of other failed attempts at making a film out of the tale of an old misguided man who goes on a quest to do battle with windmills thinking they are giants. Hopefully one day Gilliam will get to finish his quest.


finished footage from the film:


Dead Man (1995)

Directed by Jim Jarmusch

Starring Johnny Depp, Gary Farmer

“Some men to sweet the light, some men born to endless night.” -William Blake

Called an “acid Western” by director Jarmusch, Dead Man definitely turns the genre’s stereotypes on its head. Shot in black and white with unflinching violence and sarcastic dark humor, the film is unlike any western you’ve ever seen.

William Blake is a prosaic accountant journeying to a rough western town called Machine for a apprenticeship position. Once there, he finds his position filled, pockets empty, and options depleted. A local whore takes him in, but when her jealous boyfriend finds them together, Blake is mortally wounded, forced to kill a man, and flee for his life.

He awakes being tended to by a Native American named Nobody, who tells him his wound is serious and his days numbered. When he learns of Blake’s name, Nobody, a poet pundit, vows to become Blake’s companion. He teaches Blake how to use a pistol, saying, “this will be your new poetry, and your words will be written in blood.” Together the duo journey to the sea in the west where Blake will die, but not before encountering a host of interesting quirky characters, including 3 doomed bounty hunters led by Lance Henrikson, a group of bumbling trappers including Billy Bob Thorton and Iggy Pop, and a racist missionary played by Alfred Molina.

Dead Man is simultaneously funny and dramatic, mimicing the stages of a psychedlic trip that darkly examines the mortal coil. There’s meaning and symbolism here, if you submit yourself to the film’s world and though bleak in its conclusion, its whimsicality leaves you with a wam feeling of cathartic soulfulness.

Other Notable Films by this Director: Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), Broken Flowers (2005)