Film | by Shane “Sancho Panza” Hnetka

Lars von Trier’s newest movie, The House that Jack Built — a brutally graphic film about a serial killer’s exploits — was one of the recent Cannes Film Festival’s more notable moments. Apparently audiences left in the middle of the film, which some described as “vomitive”. Von Trier replied: “It’s quite important not to be loved by everybody, because then you’ve failed. I’m not sure if they hated it enough, though. If it gets too popular, I’ll have a problem. But the reception seemed just about right, I think.” You do you, Lars.

Fighting Windmills

“When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies?”

Terry Gilliam has tilted at one particular windmill for decades now. Back in the late 1980s, Gilliam wrote a screenplay for his dream project, an adaptation of Cervantes’ Don Quixote. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote began pre-production in 1998 and filming started in 2000 with Johnny Depp and the late Jean Rochefort. Then, disaster: spectacular acts of god, from floods to herniated discs, derailed the shoot and the movie was shut down by the insurance company. An excellent documentary, Lost in La Mancha, was made about the failed film.

But Gilliam fought to make the movie. At points, Robert Duvall, Michael Palin and John Hurt were cast in the title role, while Johnny Depp, Ewan McGregor, Jack O’Connell, and Adam Driver were set for the other major role, marketing executive Toby Grisoni. In 2016 it looked like production was about to begin again but Gilliam got into a fight with his new producer, Paulo Branco. Production was cancelled and Gilliam had a heart attack from the ordeal. Good times.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

Gilliam found new producers and production started again last year. This time, Jonathan Pryce —star of Brazil, Gilliam’s best film — was cast as Quixote while Adam Driver was brought on as marketing exec Toby Grisoni. Gilliam finished the film and was about to screen it at Cannes when Branco came back and sued, saying he still owned the movie’s rights. French courts greenlit a Cannes screening but while waiting for that decision Gilliam was hospitalized (perforated artery, he’s fine now.) Meanwhile, U.S. distributor Amazon has dropped the film.

Through all the drama, the movie finally screened to audiences and critics. Unfortunately it sounds like it’s like most of Gilliam’s work this century: a bit of a mess. As of this writing, the Metacritic score is 50 while the Rotten Tomatoes gives it a more generous 57 per cent. Ouch. All that work and turmoil. At least Terry Gilliam finally made his movie.

Meanwhile, the filmmakers behind Lost in La Mancha are making a new documentary to finish the story. It’s called He Dreamed of Giants. Yes, he did.

Shane Hnetka is a made-in-Saskatchewan film and comic book nerd.