If there’s one thing I’ve learned about animators after many years of viewing their work on YouTube, amongst other places, it’s that they are perhaps the most dedicated and artistic people around. Anyone can paint something, but when you have to paint that same thing over a million times, you make sure you know precisely what you are doing and what you want to do. And while there are plenty of amateur animators out there, the classically trained ones tend to stand out. Because animation can give you the flexibility to view things in whatever way you want, sometimes the best animators are the ones who have been educated in film so that they know the rules of traditional camera angles and shots and will then know how to obey or break those rules in their animation. While this week’s two films are not animated, they were directed by former animator, Terry Gilliam.
Length: 132 minutes / 2.2 hours
Very early on in his directing career, Gilliam set his artistic style and has stuck to it ever since. Perhaps due to his extended time working as an animator, many of his films are quite fanciful, filled with bizarre settings and characters. Even the most mundane of occupations can suddenly be given an artistic theme to differentiate it from an even more imaginary world. It’s easy to animate these crazy realms, but to achieve the same effect in live-action can be a bit more difficult. Nevertheless, Terry Gilliam has shown it can be done with such films as Time Bandits (1981), The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), 12 Monkeys (1995), and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998). This being said, while adhering to his style, his most controversial title was Brazil (1985), mostly due to the director’s vision not matching up with what studio executives wanted to release.
Working in the bureaucracy of the banalest of government positions, Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) often finds himself daydreaming, imagining a more classical world where he can save the archetypical damsel in distress. When he is put on task to fix a mistake that led to the unintended death of an innocent man, he runs across Jill Layton (Kim Greist), the very same woman he had been fantasizing about. Even though they have never met, Sam knows they are meant to be together, even if she is hesitant. Transferring to another governmental position, Sam now has access to Jill’s records and an opportunity to learn more about her. Unfortunately, the government soon comes after Jill, confirming her fears. Sam comes in and saves the day, but they are soon captured and tortured. While Gilliam’s ending is a bit depressing, the two do manage to escape, even if the reality is false.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Length: 91 minutes / 1.52 hours
I have written earlier of Terry Gilliam’s work in animation so I would be remiss if I did not mention his work with Monty Python. Those who have seen the television show, Flying Circus, will recognize Gilliam’s work in the oddball cut-out animations that often act as scene transitions between skits. When the comedy troupe made the transition to the big screen, Terry Gilliam was right there with them, co-directing Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) with fellow Python player, Terry Jones. While his iconic animation appears at a few points in the film, the traditional story of Arthurian legend was put on its head in the most amusing of fashions. Perhaps this was why, years later, Gilliam decided to direct another film based on stories from childhood, The Brothers Grimm (2005). Needless to say, Holy Grail stands as Monty Python’s crowning achievement.
King Arthur (Graham Chapman), riding alone with his squire, Patsy (Terry Gilliam), sets out to gather knights join him at Camelot. After collecting a handful of men, he dismembers the Black Knight (John Cleese) and arrives home, only to reconsider when he realizes it is a “silly place.” At this point, heaven opens up, and God commands them to find the eponymous Holy Grail. After an unsuccessful attempt at a French-controlled castle, the group splits up to cover more ground. As each member faces the challenges of the Knights who say Ni, a Three-Headed Giant, an Amazonian castle filled with women, and an unwanted wedding in Swamp Castle, they soon find they are no better off than before. Reforming the group, they find Tim the Enchanter (John Cleese) and proceed to face a deadly rabbit, Beast of Aaargh, and a perilous quiz before finally coming upon the Grail in the French castle again.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 terrific Terry Gilliam titles
Bacon #: 2 (Monty Python and the Holy Grail / John Cleese -> The Big Picture / Kevin Bacon)