Friday, September 13, 2013

Lost in La Mancha

Directed by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe, Lost in La Mancha is the story about Terry Gilliam’s attempt to film an adaptation of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote into his own story called The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Where Fulton and Pepe were crew members doing a making-of documentary of the film, what they got instead was a filmmaker’s dream crashing down due to bad weather, an actor’s injury, and all sorts of trouble that led to Gilliam suspending the film indefinitely as the film features narration by Jeff Bridges. The result is an enjoyable but also heartbreaking documentary about a film that never came to be.

In 2000, Terry Gilliam with the help of European financers got the chance to helm a long-desired dream project in making a film about Don Quixote. With his longtime screenwriting partner Tony Grisoni, Gilliam conceived his own take on de Cervantes’ story in which an advertising executive from the 21st Century finds himself traveling back in time to 17th Century La Mancha where he’s mistaken for Quixote’s longtime companion Sancho Panza. With Gilliam regular Johnny Depp in the role of the advertising executive Toby and French actor Jean Rochefort as Don Quixote along with a cast that was to include Gilliam regulars Ian Holm and Jonathan Price along with Peter Vaughn, Bill Paterson, Rossy de Palma, Miranda Richardson, and Depp’s then-girlfriend Vanessa Paradis as Toby’s love interest. It was an ambitious project that was to be in line with many of Gilliam’s films as he carefully planned to make sure that things wouldn’t go wrong.

Instead, everything went wrong as Fulton and Pepe capture every moment that is happening where Gilliam and his crew that included his cinematographer Nicola Peroni and first assistant director Phil Patterson checked a studio building where it turned out to be a warehouse as it didn’t satisfy Gilliam. While getting Jean Rochefort was a coup as the French actor spent seven months learning to speak English as it was to be his first English-language film. Things went wrong during shooting in the desert where jet fighters flew over the shoot as well as bad weather that would later be topped by an injury from Rochefort who was unable to return leaving the production to be troubled.

The film explores a lot of the things that went on behind the scenes where crew members and such become anxious to see if they will continue as Gilliam’s attempt to impress the people who had invested money into the $30 million production where it doesn’t exactly go well as planned. Even as producers wanted Phil Patterson fired but Gilliam refused as he let Patterson make his own decision about leaving the project. It would all play into Gilliam’s own experience about troubled productions and fighting the studio system as the film would feature some animated sequences by Stefan Avalos and Chaim Bianco that played into the story of the film as well as Gilliam’s testy relationship with the film industry.

With the editing of Jacob Bricca and some comical music from Miriam Cutler, Fulton and Pepe also play into the myth that any attempt to make a film version of Don Quixote is cursed as the film features some unreleased footage of Orson Welles’ attempt to make his own version of de Cervantes’ story. Even as its ending has Gilliam believing that maybe making a film about Don Quixote is indeed cursed.

Lost in La Mancha is an extraordinary documentary from Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe about Terry Gilliam’s disastrous attempt to make The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. The film isn’t just a very interesting making-of film but also a comically sad film about a filmmaker’s attempt to make a dream project that went horribly wrong. In the end, Lost in La Mancha is a fascinating film from Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe.

© thevoid99 2013

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