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My Favorite Directors: Terry GIlliam
Funky chicken man Twelve Monkeys Brazil Time Bandits: King Agamemnon Time Bandits: Fortress of Ultimate Darkness made of Leggos Hero shot of Agamemnon Time Bandits: Ship as giant's hat Time Bandits: The Fortress of Ultimate Darkness is revealed Time Bandits: Evil My Favorite Directors

I confess, my admiration for Terry Gilliam is due only in part to his talents as a director. It stems also from his knack for wacky animation and his standing as a member of Monty Python's Flying Circus. To top it off, he was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota! What's not to love, after all?

Films:

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Sorry - I didn't get it. And that's a damned shame, because I adore Johnny Depp...
Twelve Monkeys (1995)
A neat one - who knew Brad Pitt could act?
Fisher King, The (1991)
Here's one that I keep promising to watch again. I enjoyed it the first time but haven't felt the need to return.
Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The (1988)
Classic Gilliam: beaucoup mayhem, touchingly off-kilter characters, a heart of pure gold. You see something new every time you watch.

High points: look out for Robin Williams as the King of the Moon who can't keep his head and Uma Thurman as a beautiful if ineffectual Venus. I'm sorry to say that this time out, Jonathan Pryce isn't too lovable, alas.

Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (1983)
Another I keep meaning to see again...

It's been so long I'm afraid that I now only recall snippets: the organ harversters who'd come for the liver of a man who protested that "he wasn't done with it yet!", the Catholics and the Protestants, uneasy neighbors with very different views on family and sex, and of course,the obscenely fat man who consents, after he's eaten his fill, to have "one, thin mint."

Brazil (1985)
I got it, I just didn't like what I got! Again, not for lack of trying because I have a soft spot for its star, Jonathan Pryce (no doubt due to his turn as the romantic lead in the under-appreciated Whoopi Goldberg vehicle, Jumpin' Jack Flash.)

But, give it its due, Brazil is possiby Gilliam's most acclaimed work. Wouldn't you know it?

Time Bandits (1981)
Screen Caps from Time Bandits
Time Bandits is on my short list of the best movies ever made and this one alone would qualify Gilliam as one of my favorite directors.

I saw it for the first time in the theater almost twenty years ago and I still remember the experience. My cousin, seated next to me, marveled at the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness - presumably built entirely of miniatures in those pre-CG effects days - while I delighted at it being made to look as if it were constructed of giant Leggos. And I fell in love with Sean Connery (King Agamemnon) that afternoon.

To this day, I marvel at the kaleidoscopic rhapsody of fancies and visions in Time Bandits. There is the unforgettable image of the giant (Ian Muir) wearing the Ogres' ship for a hat - a shot used in every trailer I've ever seen. Or Robin Hood's band of Merry Men, spitting and arm-wrestling in Sherwood Forest. The moment when the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness is revealed, its horrible blackness stark against the clear blue sky reflected in the broken shards of the shattered invisible barrier.

All of this is as nothing compared to Evil, portrayed with smarmy aplomb by thefabulous David Warner. In every way - from his obsession with modern technology to his extravagant headgear to his ghastly long fingernails - he is a match for the Fortress in which he is imprisoned.

But Time Bandits is no mere visual feast, it's also a loaded with witty tidbits. I can think of no film, over the years, which I have quoted more often. Here are just a few of my favorites:

  • Robin Hood (John Cleese) waving goodbye: (Shouting)"Cheerio! Thank you very,very, very,verry much!!" (Aside) "What awful people."
  • Fidgit (Kenny Baker, R2D2 in another life) questioned by Kevin (Craig Warnock):"Who was that man?"
    "That was no man, that was the Supreme Being."
    "You mean God?"
    "Well, we don't know him that well. We only work with him."
  • Quoth Evil (David Warner): "Benson, dear Benson, you are so mercifully free ofthe ravages of intelligence."
  • Kevin, questioning the Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson) about the existence ofEvil: "Yes, why do we have to have evil?"
    "Ah." Long pause. "I think it's something to do with free will."
  • The Supreme Being on being absent from Creation too long: "I mustn't waste anymore time. They'll think I've lost control again and put it all down to evolution."
  • Kevin's materialistic mother (Sheila Fearn) to his father after having lost the family home to a massive fire: "Oh Trevor - if you'd been half a man you'd have gone in after the blender."
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
As promised, I've finally watched this one again and was reminded why it's so beloved by Python fans. There are idiotic treasures throughout: the clapping coconuts imitating the sound of hoofbeats, the guys who cart away the dead, the Witch & Duck test, the Knights who say "ni"... But by far my favorite bit is when Dennis the peasant lectures King Arthur on the evils of Imperealistic dogma and the exploitation of the masses. Wonderful! I've rediscovered a classic.