This book argues the centrality of hybridity to Terry Gilliam's films. Gilliam had a collaborative approach to filmmaking and a desire to provoke audiences to their own interpretations as other forms of intertextual practice. Placing Gilliam in the category of cinematic fantasist does some preliminary critical work, but crudely homogenises the diversity of his output. One way of marking this range comes from understanding that Gilliam employs an extraordinary variety of genres. These include medieval comedy; children's historical adventure; dystopian satire; the fantastic voyage; science fiction; Gonzo Journalism; fairy tale; and gothic horror. Gilliam's work with Monty Python assured him a revered place in the history of that medium in Britain. As a result, the Python films, And Now for Something Completely Different, The Holy Grail, Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life, along with his own, Jabberwocky, Time Bandits, and Brazil, show him moving successfully into the British film industry. Most of his films have been adaptations of literary texts, and Jabberwocky forges an extended tale of monsters and market forces. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen builds on some tales from the original texts, constructing a complex examination of fantasy, representation and mortality. Taking crucial ingredients from medieval and older mythologies, the screenplay of The Fisher King resituates them and reworks them for modern America. Gilliam's complex interaction with Britain and America explains his ambiguous place in accounts of American and British films.
An illuminating book could be
written on the films TerryGilliam has not made. We might take this as a
positive claim about the films this imaginative director has still to
make; negatively, it could introduce a list of films Gilliam has failed
to realise. The positive reading would emphasise that when he qualified
as a British pensioner in 2005, Gilliam had two films ready for release
The Pythons (2003). The book that came from
Gilliam’s request, Dreams and Nightmares: TerryGilliam ,
The Brothers Grimm, and Other Cautionary Tales of Hollywood
(2005), offers a sobering account of the tribulations Gilliam underwent
in making The Brothers Grimm . 12 Others would also suffer. The
Weinsteins were known for the intrusive and aggressive tactics in making
sure what they produced
first billing, attributing the screenplay to ‘TerryGilliam &
Tony Grisoni and Alex Cox & Tod Davies’. 46
Gilliam must have hoped that his energetic, intellectually
arresting and visually adventurous film of a modern literary classic
would find a relatively sizeable and appreciative audience. But the
critical response tended largely to the negative, and because of poor
marketing and scheduling (the filmed
If Brazil spawned the
potent figure of TerryGilliam the triumphant auteur, Baron
Munchausen seeded the equally mythical creature, Gilliam the
self-indulgent fantasist. This label was not of itself sufficient to
scupper his career as a filmmaker, but Munchausen came burdened
with a far more toxic label: ‘financial flop’. Coupled with
a mixed critical reception
Palin, in ibid .
Gilliam, David Sterritt interview ‘Laughs
and Deep Themes’ originally in Christian Science
Monitor , 7 January 1982). In David Sterritt and Lucille
Rhodes (eds), TerryGilliam: Interviews (Jackson, Miss., University of
Monty Python's Flying Circus clearly plays the key role in launching Terry Gilliam as a filmmaker. This chapter also addresses certain pertinent aspects of one of television's greatest comedy shows. One of these aspects is the importance of Gilliam's animation to the style as well as the structure of the show. One of the few self-referential moments occurs in Gilliam's animation, The Killer Cars, in which pedestrian-devouring cars are consumed by a giant mutant cat. Gilliam's animations transfer better than many of the great verbal sketches. Holy Grail is more focused on a single set of characters and a relatively coherent narrative. Hence the animation is decidedly less surreal than on television or in Something Completely Different. Holy Grail gave Gilliam a tough and highly instructive apprenticeship in filmmaking, but the opportunity only arose because he and Terry Jones were Python members.
Terry Gilliam suggested a film based on Lewis Carroll's nonsense verse, 'Jabberwocky', taken from Through the Looking Glass. Gilliam reworked the traditional fairy tale narrative, so that the storyline would precipitate 'a collision of fairytales'. In Holy Grail the many-eyed monster had been an animation, but that was not an option in Jabberwocky. Drawing from Carroll, Pieter Bruegel, Paolo Pasolini and others, and incorporating elements of social document, social satire, evocative nonsense, slapstick comedy, distorted fairy tale, the grotesque and the monster film, Jabberwocky did not play safe. Jabberwocky offered Gilliam the chance to represent the intricacies of medieval society, celebrate its vital humanity, offer a comically inflected critique of his own world, and learn his craft. Despite its huge success, in terms of Gilliam's career as a film-maker Life of Brian was a step backwards from Jabberwocky.
Las Vegas , dir. TerryGilliam , Universal Pictures UK , 2005 .
Hughes , R. ,
‘ The rise of Andy Warhol ’,
The New York Review of Books , 18
February 1982 .
Claudius , dir. Herbert Wise , BBC Television series , 1976 .
Revenger’s Tragedy , dir. Alex Cox , Palisades Tartan , 2003 .
Sheehan , C. , Peace Mom: A Mother’s Journey