Tuesday 18 October 2011

Lost In La Mancha - Review

Lost In La Mancha - 2002
Directors - Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe

1) Lost In La Mancha Poster

Plot Summary / review:
"Lost In La Mancha" is a fascinating documentary about English director Terry Gilliam's efforts to adapt Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra's "Don Quixote de la Mancha" into a movie. "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" was a life long ambition of Gilliam's, funding the project through European investors, (as opposed to Hollywood) with a significantly lower budget. He cast Johnny Depp as a man who accidentally time travels and is mistaken by Jean Rocheforts Don Quixote as his faithful side kick, Sancho Panza. With a surreal storyline and fantastic visual's, the movie promised to be a perfect vehicle for Gilliam's vivid imagination.

Gilliam's enthusiasm and passion for the production is clear from the start, particularly when Rochefort is dressed as Don Quixote for the first time in pre-production. Gilliam describes watching the movie over and over in his head and we are treated to glimpses of this through the former animators storyboards and art work. 

2) Filming starts

Despite early problems assembling the cast, Gilliam and assistant director Phil Patterson juggle their schedules and filming starts. Shortly after the first few scenes are in the can, more problems begin to emerge. Unrehearsed extras slow down filming and then fighter jets in training roar overhead, playing havoc with the sound recording and in general a big distraction. Gilliam and his crew persist and change location, only to be halted by an act of God. Thunder clouds loom and the crew are bombarded with rain, hail and a flash flood which washes away props, sets and equipment.

3) Act of God

After the freak bout of weather, filming is not able to resume as the sodden landscape would not match with the footage shot before the storm. It also emerges that Rochefort is struggling with health issues, perhaps Gilliam's determination rubs off on him as Rochefort nobly tries to continue. However, after an hour trying to mount his horse and three crew members helping him to get off it again, he returns to Paris for medical advice. Production is shut down, except for one last day of filming in front of many of the films visiting investors. 

It's hard not sympathise for Gilliam as we see his dream slip away from him via events out of his control. He is infamous for clashing with studio executives and producers throughout his directing career. His morales and loyalty to his crew are put to the test as Roger Ebert from the Chicago Sun-Times explains: "There are many sad sights in "Lost in La Mancha." One comes when the producers try to evoke the oldest rule in the book: "Fire the first assistant director." Gilliam stands firm behind his longtime assistant Patterson. It is not his fault." (Ebert. 2003). When the inevitable eventually happens, the pain and raw emotions is clearly evident in Gilliam's face.

4) Shut down

"Lost in La Mancha" is an intriguing look behind what it takes to make a big budget movie. It demonstrates the drive and determination a director must exhibit to realise their creative vision whilst managing cast / crew and the expectations of producers, studio exec's and investors. "It also makes for compelling viewing, offering terrific insights into the commercial cinema's absolute dependence on money and how a massive enterprise can be brought down by the smallest problem." (Andrew. 2006).

The story of Don Quixote seems destined never to grace the silver screen. Gilliam was not the first director to attempt to bring this story to life. Orson Welles himself also devoted years of his life to Don Quixote and also failed. Despite the tragic circumstances of this documentary, film enthusiasts can enjoy glimpses of what could have been. Particularly "some hilarious scenes, mostly involving the casting for three angry giants. Animated versions of Gilliam's storyboards bring his vision to life, as do clips of the scenes that actually got shot. Hopefully one day we'll get to see the real thing." (Bushell. 2002)


Andrew, Geoff. Timeout Review 24th June 2006.
http://www.timeout.com/film/reviews/80727/lost_in_la_mancha.html Accessed 18/10/11

Bushell, Laura. BBC Review. 29th July 2002.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2002/07/24/lost_in_la_mancha_2002_review.shtml Accessed 18/10/11

Ebert, Roger. Chicago Sun-Times review. 14th February 2003
http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20030214/REVIEWS/302140303 Accessed 18/10/11


1) Lost in La Mancha Poster
http://www.matttrailer.com/lost_in_la_mancha_2002&docid=OwUE2knYKWVeYM&imgurl=http://www.mattfind.com/12345673215-3-2-3_img/movie/a/r/e/lost_in_la_mancha_2002_580x858_268703.jpg Accessed 18/10/11

2) Filming starts
http://cf1.imgobject.com/backdrops/048/4c8eca7d7b9aa17688000048/lost-in-la-mancha-poster.jpg Accessed 18/10/11

3) Act of God
http://strongvideography.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/lost_in_la_mancha.jpg Accessed 18/10/11

4) Shut Down
http://www.stomptokyo.com/scott/nerds/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/monolithmonsters002.jpg Accessed 18/10/11

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