I want to take a long weekend holiday inside Terry Gilliam's head. It's not john Malkovitch (that was a nice movie) but it sure is going to be fun. And interesting. Well, more fun then interesting. Should be the best creative experience for those who are too scared to spend a long weekend inside Tim Burton's head.
Terry Gilliam is fun. No doubt about it. After all he does come from the funniest fun funsters the island there by the continent ever produced, but the monthy python part of his life, a period that would have been more than a full career for normal mortals, was just a small preview of what Gilliam is going to bring us in the decades that followed, and what I hope he will keep on bringing to us for many more years to come.
A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.
A good artist must have his own signature look, a personal feel, something to distinguish him from the crowd, to make him stand out, and Gilliam? He doesn’t have a signature look, he has a signature craziness, a certain level of acting out , whether it is in animation, in producing amazingly bazaar films or in the directing of the actors, helping them to achieve that Gilliam craziness on their own, inviting them to join him in this strange beautiful journey of twisted inspiration.
My advice to young film-makers is this: don't follow trends, start them!
Where should I start? Brazil? No, too obvious, everybody knows this is his great masterpiece, his opus magnum, and I really don’t want to bring anything obvious to an article about Terry Gilliam. It is almost sacrilegious. (can I just take a second to mention that the genius of Brazil was in the magical encounter between Gilliam and Tom Stoppard? Vision and words. Anything is possible with this symbiosis of nonsensical whimsical creative collaboration. )
One of the things that always attracted me to Gilliams movies and the elaborate art-direction and visual process is that he was the first, and still the most important steampunk movie maker.
His productions are always a medieval futuristic three ring circus act with a dash of fantasy, a midget or three, laser beams and magic. A whole lot of magic.
My favorite Gilliam movie is still Timebandits, if only for the pure bizarness of it all, for that suspension of any kind of logic , the kind of suspension that keeps you on the edge of your seat waiting to see what is the next turn of the plot, what new nonsense is going to fall on our head from above. It is the direct evolution of Gilliam's work with the Pythons and it is just as brilliant.
And it is exactly this steampunk nonsensical breath of fresh air that is so addictive about Gilliam. This is why you go see a terry Gilliam movie, every movie. Doesn’t matter who plays in it, doesn’t matter what it is about, you know it is going to be a steampunk masterpiece, a real work of art, of modern day storytelling, of the fables of our fantastic follies.
All great directors or producers share a talent which is more important than the actual directing work. They help the actors to arrive to higher levels of performance, to shine, to open up and give us that gift of gab, that expressive embodiment of the tale. The best example is brad pitt's role in 12 monkeys. That is a brilliant marriage of madness channeling through brad, glowing with Gilliam's insanity sparks.
And then there is also Robin Williams in Fisher king. And not to forget Johnny Depp in Fear and loathing in Las Vegas… Crazy people are fun. Especially in the trusted hands of maser storytellers like Terry Gilliam.
I am waiting for his next film.