Like the big disembodied animated foot from his Monty Python days, divine retribution has apparently stalked Terry Gilliam’s filmmaking career. This retribution has included studio interference with his brilliant Brazil, treacherous financing during the unfortunate The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and most recently, as recorded in Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe’s ruefully hilarious documentary Lost in La Mancha, disasters of biblical proportions during his abortive attempt to make his dream film, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Here we watch as storm clouds literally arise while the crew begins to shoot the first scene; the sky explodes in thunder bolts and a deluge washes equipment away.
Some of the troubles seem like they could have been avoided — surely someone should have suspected that setting a location next to a NATO bombing range was a bad idea — but others, like that storm, come out of the blue. The film makes the obvious comparison between Quixote and Gilliam himself, and it holds true: despite his frustrations, the filmmaker’s ebullient laughter prevails. Unlike Francis Ford Coppola in Hearts of Darkness or Werner Herzog in Burden of Dreams, both of whom display signs of hubris or at least of an abrasive personality, Gilliam seems completely undeserving of his fate. And determined to fight it: the film notes at the end that he’s still wrestling insurance companies for the rights to make the film.