The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

Studio: Screen Media Films
Directed by Terry Gilliam

Apr 19, 2019 Web Exclusive
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Big-shot Hollywood director Toby Grisoni (Adam Driver) is in the Spanish desert filming his adaptation of Don Quixote. However, his production is mired in countless issues and is generally uninspired, leading Grisoni to long for simpler days. Back when he was a student filmmaker driven by enthusiasm instead of budget, back when he was in Spain filming a shoestring adaptation of the Cervantes novel. He and a skeleton crew used locals in the major roles, including an old shoemaker as Don Quixote (Jonathan Pryce). Returning to the small village where he filmed as a student, he runs into the actor who believes himself to be the teflon Don, and, through a series of circumstances, finds himself on the run from Spanish authorities, playing Sancho to the unwitting Don.

The generation-long struggles in getting Terry Gilliam’s passion project off the ground will probably make an interesting film on its own right, and here serves to create a mental game as to which elements of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote are meta-commentary from production hell. There’s an honesty here about the purity of art and the drawbacks of success, but that thread gets abandoned and feels little more than a jumping off point for a ridiculous set of episodes with Don Quixote. That’s not to use the term pejoratively — the coincidences that continuously validate the faux Quixote somehow never get old and each episode is mostly enjoyable. But the whole thing never fully adds up to much. When Quixote inevitably has his realization, it’s in embarrassing fashion, before a party of wealthy onlookers, who delight in the folly of his misplaced passion. Perhaps Gilliam is commenting on the Philistinian sensibilities of power players, that placating results in a loss of authenticity, and the problems that arise when combining their sway and tastes. Even so, this isn’t harmonious with the middle of the film, which, while demonstrating the drawbacks of wealth, is more interested in each particular episode.

Gilliam’s film has echoes of Fellini and an irreverence that’s marked the high points of his career, which is why it’s frustrating when the whole thing feels worth less than the sum of its parts. But even if this à la carte storytelling might not have resulted in Gilliam’s opus like everyone wanted, hey, even à la carte can make a satisfying meal.

(screenmediafilms.net/productions/details/2795/The-Man-Who-Killed-Don-Quixote)

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