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Lost in La Mancha | Review

Trouble Everyday

How a filmmaker’s labor of love turns into a nightmare.

My definition of the word ‘disaster’ is best described by the opening of ABC’s Wide World of Sports intro which sees a skier hit a bad spot and then flips over into about a thousand summersaults. Try making a film when you’ve got untimely F-16 fighter jets fly-over during the shooting of a picture, try dealing with weather elements of no sun and plenty of rain, mud slides, horrible sound stages, horses that don’t collaborate, a crew and cast that don’t speak a common tongue and an actor who has a prostate infection.

How hard can it be to make a movie? Well, apparently the curse of making a film on Don Quixote started back when Orsen Welles tried his hand at the project spending more than two decades on it. Documentary film, Lost in La Mancha is the type of project that was probably the cool bonus feature for the creative genius’ eventual Criterion Collection DVD of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Little did filmmaker Terry Gilliam know that these cameras following him around would record the most delicious filmmaking mess since Apocalypse Now’s director’s world nightmare of The Heart of Darkness.

The team of Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe capture the entire process– from pre-production aspirations to the dashed hopes of a filmmaking crew who come to witness the worst production start ever. With the aid of an animated intro, we come to understand the vision of Gilliam– a cinematic mastermind who made such creations as Time Bandits, 12 Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Brazil, The Fisher King and don’t forget the film that he’d like to forget the most, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

This is a film made for those who love the entire moviemaking process and for those who ever worked on a set. Gilliam’s struggle to get his actors in place, watching him storyboard the scenes of the weakened and delusional warrior Quixote are priceless moments and his reactionary gleeful moments of smiles and laughs from watching the dailies or hearing his words (which have lingered in his mind for a decade) being spoken are magically available for us lucky viewers.

When everything falls apart, the absence of Gilliam’s smile really sets the tone for the fateful conclusion, but at least something good came out of this project which never really got off the ground. French actor Jean Rochefort looked just perfect for the part and let’s hope he can stay in the game for a while and perhaps he’ll get his second shot.

Martin Scorsese worked on Gangs of New York for like, his entire existence, so have faith Terry Gilliam, work on some other projects and hopefully, this fascinating documentary feature with a great title should be the cool featurette that it was supposed to be.

Rating 3.5 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist and critic at (founded in 2000). Eric is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson's This Teacher (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022 he served as a New Flesh Comp for Best First Feature at the 2022 Fantasia Intl. Film Festival. Current top films for 2022 include Tár (Todd Field), All That Breathes (Shaunak Sen), Aftersun (Charlotte Wells).

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