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In September 2000, six days into the shooting of Terry Gilliam's film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, production was abandoned. Lost In La Mancha traces the disintegration of the project Gilliam had planned for ten years and succeeded in financing outside the Hollywood system. Despite a limited budget, inadequate studio space in Madrid and the late arrival of stars Jean Rochefort, Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, Gilliam and his crew are determined to start filming in the hope that momentum itself will solve their problems. When a flash flood destroys sets and equipment and Jean Rochefort is taken ill, the production slowly falls apart and Gilliam must face the prospect of his dream remaining unrealised.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
Here's the kind of behind-the-scenes documentary we'd really like to see included in the bonus footage on DVD releases. Not a shallow, back-slapping promotional but the real skinny on what goes down when the studio lights go up. Lost In La Mancha is proof that disorganisation and disaster in filmmaking respects no budget or talent roster.

It's one thing for the first-timers depicted in the Australian documentary Making Venus to fail at their first attempt (though their film did eventually creep out onto screens) but here's a fully-fledged European co-production (one of the most expensive to date) with master visionary Terry Gilliam at the helm and experienced producers and technical staff in support - and it still falls over.

By particularly savage irony the beneficiary of the demise of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is this very documentary which finds its fortunes raised from TV broadcast and DVD-filler to a feature film with international theatrical exposure. Gilliam may yet revive this project but for now we can gasp in disbelief as a combination of appalling luck and bad management scuttles this attempt.

The footage is incredibly intimate. Gilliam agreed to wear a radio microphone at all times and what's captured in the heat of many a tense moment will make you think of William Goldman's famous 'No-one knows anything' quote as this Spanish tragedy takes place. There's not enough surviving footage from the 6-day shoot to judge what kind of film might have resulted but one can't also help imagining that somewhere or other the ominous spirit of Baron Munchausen (Gilliam's 1989 flop) was lurking around Madrid while the production attempted to saddle up a sick and sorry Jean Rochefort as Don Quixote.

Not just a film for buffs, Lost In La Mancha offers a fascinating microcosm of capitalism at its most faltering. The means of production is in place (sort of) but entrepreneurial skill is lacking. Capital equipment (leading man) has fallen into disrepair and the shop stewards are leaving the floor. An internal diseconomy of gigantic scale erupts. Great stuff.

Published: July 22, 2004

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CAST: Documentary with narrator: Jeff Bridges, and Bernard Bouix, René Cleitman, Johnny Depp, Benjamín Fernández, Terry Gilliam

DIRECTOR: Keith Fulton, Louis Pepe

SCRIPT: Keith Fulton, Louis Pepe

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes




DVD RELEASE: July 21, 2004

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