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.