Terry Gilliam Week Day #4: Lost In La Mancha

For Day 4, how about the Terry Gilliam film that never was?  In 2000, the directorial duo who shot the behind-the-scenes documentary for the DVD of 12 Monkeys, Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe, were back with Gilliam to film the same for his latest film, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, starring Johnny Depp.  Except the film fell apart mid-shoot and never got finished, so suddenly the pair were not just left with your typical "making of," but the spectacle of an artistic collapse and the definitive record of a film that otherwise doesn't exist.  So they wound up releasing it as a stand-alone documentary, narrated by Jeff Bridges and distributed theatrically and on home video by IFC Films.  To this day, it remains a DVD-only title.
You don't have to be a Gilliam fan to be drawn into this film.  Of course, it helps if you are...  I can still remember how devastating it used to feel that we could never get to see this lost, seemingly quite epic vision back when Gilliam's batting average was a lot more impressive.  But even if you don't care for his work at all, it's a captivating, and surprisingly candid, view of what goes on behind a major motion picture as it goes further and further off the rails.  There are dramatic moments of rain storms shutting down a location and high pressure meetings where the crew anguish and fight about what to do next.  Apparently, Gilliam wore a mic all day every day on set, and often afterwards, and let Fulton and Pepe use whatever they chose without interference.  So even if the film had managed to cross the finish line, it'd be a top of the line "making of," but then the circumstances add substantially more dramatic intrigue that still stands even now that the film that never was... is.
Because of course, you can't talk about this film without pointing out that eventually, in 2018, Gilliam finally mount and complete a production of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, now starring Adam Driver and Jonathan Pryce.  It's a totally different production.  None of the footage or effects from the 2000 shoot are a part of the 2018 one.  Gilliam had to start over from scratch, but ya know, it's not bad.  And yes, Fulton and Pepe returned to shoot the behind-the-scenes documentary.  Annoyingly, it wasn't included on any Don Quixote release, but it came out a year later as a separate documentary called He Dreams of Giants, streaming on Amazon.  It's not as compelling as Lost In La Mancha, partially because there's less drama to be found in a film sailing smoothly along than in one falling apart.  And they try to fill the space with lots of green screen and clips of 8 1/2.  But any fan of this should see that, because it's a great postscript to Lost, if not the greatest documentary in its own right.
2003 IFC Films DVD.
Lost In La Mancha doesn't look great.  It's fullscreen at 1.31:1 and looks pretty grubby, but remember, this was shot to be supplementary footage with equipment from the year 2000, so we're not talking 4k footage here.  If the IMDB is to be trusted, this was shot on DV tape, so it's presumably SD and meant to be 4:3.  But every frame of this DVD is interlaced, and I shot with DV cameras in those days - the interlacing was usually meant to be corrected with a program that converted the output file with 3-2 pulldown.  So it's quite possible this film shouldn't be interlaced, and it's just down to this being an old master.

The back of the case promises 5.1 surround, but the DVD just has a basic stereo mix... which is actually probably how it was shot and supposed to be, anyway.  There are no subtitles.
A "Soundbite."
One really nice fact about this DVD is that it's in fact a 2-disc set, with a whole second DVD of extras, some of which are really great.  Let's start with the just okay stuff, first.  There are two hour-long, career-spanning film festival chats with Gilliam.  If you've seen many interviews with Gilliam, you've heard a lot of this before, but each have some interesting tidbits, and they're good for beginners.  There are also nine deleted scenes that provide some extra glimpses into the making of Don Quixote for the devoted fan; but nothing fascinating had been left on the cutting room floor.  There are also interviews with this documentary's directors and producers, which aren't bad.  But then there are new interviews with Depp and Gilliam that were shot for this release; and the Gilliam interview in particular gives some extra insight into the whole scenario.  And better still, there's a section called "Soundbites" (I don't know why, since they're full video), which are actually newly recorded interview featurettes that tell more of the story, including some with people who aren't featured in Lost itself.  So we get some info on an earlier attempt to make Don Quixote, a bit on what happened after, etc.  There are also multiple stills galleries of behind-the-scenes photos, costume designs, storyboards and more, plus the trailer.  So this is actually a pretty loaded release.
I wish somebody would release a 2-BD set of Lost In La Mancha and He Dreams of Giants together. Yes, Lost is SD, so I can understand the lack of urgency to rush this out to blu.  But even a slim improvement would be nice, and including it on disc with He Dreams of Giants would be a nice excuse to roll the dice, since it would add up to a nice little package regardless.  You guys would spring for that, right?

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