Film Review: The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

Terry Gilliam’s long-awaited The Man Who Killed Don Quixote features all the hallmarks we have come to expect from the filmmaker. The film is imperfect but endearing.

Director Toby is having trouble filming an adaption of Cervantes’ Don Quixote. He gets inspiration from his student film adaptation, which sets him off on quite the adventure…

Several years after the project was first conceived, Terry Gilliam finally delivers his Don Quixote. Gilliam jokes about the arduous production in the opening titles; a hint of the tongue-in-cheek humour that is to follow. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote first appears as if it will be a film within a film, but the filmmaker has something more to offer than this standard meta structure. 

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote combines adventure, fantasy and comedy in a style Gilliam fans have become accustomed to. The filmmaker takes his trademark eccentric approach to proceedings, creating a film which is amusing and adventurous, with a healthy dose of wonder. Like its source material, the film plays on the idea of fantasy and allusion, with protagonist Toby fighting against the fancy, before succumbing. The film feels like an ode to make-believe; underlining the importance of imagination.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote seems like a typical Gilliam film thanks to the inventiveness, but also the shortcomings. The film offers some attention-grabbing ideas, but some of these run out of steam. The two-hour plus run time is occasionally felt. The third act recovers some of the slack, with a wonderful setting for the climactic scenes to take place in.

The film features some characters, sets and props that feel archetypical Gilliam. The locations are marvellous, and allow viewers to get lost in this world. Costumes are also great. Roque Baños’ score is ever so fitting. Adam Driver delivers is great as Toby. However it is Johnathan Pryce who steals the show, delivering an enchanting performance. 

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote has its flaws, but these do not detract from the overall enjoyment of the film.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2018.

BFI London Film Festival 2018 Launch

Today saw the BFI London Film Festival 2018 launch. Now in its 62nd year, the festival is screening 225 feature films, including 21 world premieres. Here are some highlights from the festival programme…

Headline Galas

The Opening and Closing Gala films had already been announced. The BFI London Film Festival 2018 opens with Steve McQueen’s hotly anticipated Widows, starring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Colin Farrell. McQueen co-wrote the  screenplay with Gillian Flynn. McQueen’s last film, 12 Years A Slave, screened at the 2013 London Film Festival to great acclaim. Stan & Ollie, which features John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan as the legendary comedy duo, closes the festival. Other headline galas include Luca Guadagnino’s hotly anticipated Suspiria, Jason Reitman’s The Front Runner, and Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?. A particular highlight is Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest. The Favourite is about Queen Anne’s court, and stars Olivia Colman, Rachel Weiss, and Emma Stone. 

Strand Galas and Special Presentations

There are several great looking films in the Strand Galas and Special Presentation programmes. They include Barry Jenkins’ follow up to Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk, which is an adaption of James Baldwin’s novel. Others in this category include Lee Chang-dong’s thriller Burning, and Alfonso Caurón’s first film since Gravity, Roma, and Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Special Presentations include Michael Moore’s Donald Trump documentary Fahrenheit 11/9, Carol Morley’s noir thriller Out of Blue, and George Tillman Jr.’s The Hate U Give. 

Official Competition

There are some big names in this year’s Official Competition. Films include David Lowery’s (A Ghost Story) The Old Man & The Gun starring Robert Redford, László Nemes’ (Son of Saul) Sunset, and Ben Wheatley’s Happy New Year, Colin Burstead – Wheatley’s Free Fire closed the 2016 festival. Also competing is Karyn Kusama’s Destroyer, starring Nicole Kidman. Meanwhile the Documentary Competition features Putin’s Witness (Svideteli Putina’s film featuring footage of Putin from 1999-2000) and Julien Faraut’s John McEnroe: In The Realm Of Perfection. First Feature Competition includes Isabella Eklöf’s Holiday and Paul Dano’s Wildlife. 

Strands

As in previous years, the eleven programme strands are back. Love features Fred Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, and the Sandra Hüller starring In The Aisles. Debate includes Oliver Assayas’ latest, Non-Fiction, starring Juliette Binoche and Guillaume Canet, and Catherine Corsini’s An Impossible Love. Laugh includes New Zealand comedy The Breaker Uppers, about two women running a relationship break-up service. Amongst the Dare programme is The Green Fog, which sees filmmakers Guy Maddin and Evan and Galen Johnson remake Vertigo using clips from other people’s films. Thrill includes Kim Nguyen’s The Hummingbird Project (starring Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård), while Cult features Nicolas Cage in Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy. 

Jessica Hynes directorial debut The Fight is part of the Journey strand, and Create includes Joan Jett documentary Bad Reputation. Richard Squires’ Doozy, which recreates the career of Hanna-Barbera’s villain actor Paul Lynde is one of the Experimenta films being screened. The Family strand features Linda Hambäck’s animated detective tale Gordon & Paddy. Finally, there are some great films being screened as part of the Treasures strand. These include Billy Wilder’s classic Some Like It Hot and Mae West in My Little Chickadee.

The BFI London Film Festival 2018 runs from 10th-21st October. The full programme can be viewed here.

Film Review: The Zero Theorem

The Zero Theorem

Terry Gilliam’s latest effort offers an existential crisis in a dystopian wonderland. The Zero Theorem is intriguing but imperfect.

Qohen Leth is continually searching for the reason for human existence. His desire to answer this question is interrupted by his increasing workload, including a new projected handed to him by Management…

Terry Gilliam’s films often inhabit fantasy and dystopian worlds, and The Zero Theorem adheres to this. The film focuses on real concerns through the guise of a futuristic environment.

The Zero Theorem is highly reminiscent of Brazil, both thematically and in some ways stylistically. The film almost functions as an update of the 1985 film to include contemporary technophobic and authoritarian concerns.

The Zero Theorem‘s narrative offers the audience enough to get their teeth into. With a core of existentialism, it is fascinating to see how Gilliam and screenwriter Pat Rushin will handle the big questions. There are some interesting ideas in The Zero Theorem, although any reveals are inevitably insubstantial given the subject at hand.

There is a slight lull in momentum before the climax. It is unclear where exactly the film is heading for large periods, but this adds to the intrigue.

Production design in The Zero Theorem is great. The world featured in the film futuristic and heavily reliant on technology. Qohen’s home acts as a nice antithesis to the outside world. The use of soundtrack is highly effective at the very end of the film. Christoph Waltz offers a competent performance as Qohen. He is ably supported by Mélanie Thierry and Tilda Swinton.

The Zero Theorem does not provide a substantial response to existential concerns, but the film is interesting and entrancing science fiction.

The Zero Theorem is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2013.

Film Review: The Double

The Double

Richard Ayoade’s The Double is compelling viewing. After his critically applauded debut Submarine, Ayoade showcases another string to his bow.

Simon is a timid young man, overlooked at work and invisible to the woman he adores. Simon is confounded by the arrival of a new colleague at work. James is physically identical to Simon, yet his exact opposite in terms of personality…

For his second feature, Richard Ayoade has tackled an adaptation of a Fyodor Dostoyevsky novella. The Double offers an interesting plot, and a narrative imbued with humour and tension.

Ayoade has created a dystopian world in The Double. The film owes a deby to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. This is particularly true of its satirising of bureaucracy. The environment in The Double is one of the past. Certain elements point to a 1980s setting, whilst other aspects indicate a decade or two before this. Notwithstanding, the world has a very distinctive look and feel.

The Double generates frequent laughs, thanks in part to Simon’s deadpan countenance and the Kafkaesque occurrences. Yet it is also successful in generating tension. It is not difficult to identify with Simon, a protagonist increasingly losing control as the film progresses.

Production design in The Double is fantastic. The sets and costumes create a memorable look for the film. Cinematography is also a highlight. The soundtrack is unusual, but in keeping with the bizarre world Simon inhabits.

Jesse Eisenberg is convincing as both Simon and James. The characters play to his dual strengths, allowing him to play both cocky and insecure. Mia Wasikowska is also great as Hannah.

The Double is a finely executed film. Highly recommended viewing.

The Double is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2013.

Film Review: Faust

Aleksandr Sokurov’s realisation of Goethe’s classic relies upon style and tone rather than narrative to beguile viewers. Faust is overlong, but the film generates a wonderful atmosphere.

Faust is a professor of anatomy who struggles to pay his bills. After his father refuses to help him, Faust encounters a moneylender who seems eager to help. The moneylender shows Faust another side to his world, one which is wrought with temptation. All the moneylender wants in return is just a small thing from the faithless Faust…

Sokurov’s Faust concentrates predominantly on the initial temptation of the professor, rather than the fall out from his decision. Much of the running time is dedicated to the web spun by the moneylender, after the introduction of Faust and his situation. Although the consequences of Faust’s choice become apparent as the film progresses, the outcome of the deal is only fully revealed very late on in the film.

The narrative, however, is secondary to the tone and overall style of Faust. The film creates a wonderful world in an imagined past. Faust is fairy tale-like in its look, reminiscent of Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. The use of colour and lighting is very expressive. Overall, the film conjures imagery of German folklore.

Anton Adasinsky does a commendable job playing the moneylender. His movement and mannerisms are key to the role, and Adasinsky offers a memorable portrayal. Johannes Zeiler is also good Faust; bringing the necessary intensity to the character.

Viewers are likely to lose concentration as the two-hour plus running time can start to drag, Nevertheless, for the most part Faust is a fantastic example of a fairy tale rendering of a classic story.

Faust was screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2011.

Film Review: The Monster of Nix

The Monster of Nix is a delightfully quirky animated film. With a running time of thirty minutes, The Monster of Nix maintains the viewer’s interest throughout.

Nix is just an ordinary village until a monster appears. When everyone else disappears, it is up to young Willy to fight the monster by himself…

The Monster of Nix is a weird and wonderful tale. The style of animation, the narrative and visuals combine to create an idiosyncratic world. Director and screenwriter Rosto has imbued his film with a sense of surrealism. It is engaging as viewers will wonder what weird character or incident will pop up next.

The music in The Monster of Nix works very well. The sound, presumably intentionally, is a little strange with the dialogue a struggle to decipher over the soundtrack. Nonetheless, the film features the voices of Terry Gilliam and Tom Waits, the latter in a particularly memorable role. Those who like unusual animated features should definitely check The Monster of Nix out.

The Monster of Nix is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2011 as part of the ‘International Animation Panorama Programme 1’.