My Masterpiece
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My Masterpiece

Terry Gilliam has brought to Cannes his long-gestated and epically delayed movie version of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, a biblical ordeal of wrecked sets, collapsed funding and bad luck that has outlived two of the actors once cast – John Hurt and Jean Rochefort – and which has 303 Squadron been attended by colossal legal acrimony and brinkmanship right up to the red-carpet steps themselves, as the former backer Paulo Branco sought to injunct its showing here as closing gala. A French court found against Branco last week, but its screening here has been prefaced by a solemn lawyerly announcement respecting Mr Branco’s future claims. It’s a backstory of enormous drama, well told in Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe’s documentary Lost in La Mancha, all the way back in 2002, when it looked as if Gilliam’s Quixote film, like Orson Welles’, would never be made.

Well, hooray for Gilliam’s energy and self-belief because now it has got made, co-scripted with Tony Grisoni, and although it doesn’t have the visually ambitious and even revolutionary The Wolf House style of Brazil and 12 Monkeys – nor the hard edge of my own favourite of his later films, Tideland from 2006 – it is a film of sweet gaiety and cheerful good nature, an interesting undertow of poignancy, and with a lovely leading turn from Jonathan Pryce as the chivalric legend himself and roistering action scenes pleasantly like Richard Lester’s Three Musketeers movies from the 1970s. It’s almost like a children’s movie, in fact – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

This is a film with a sentimental respect for its source material – but Gilliam has new and vigorous insights to offer. It’s as if he is politely waving away our obvious view that he is a Quixote figure tilting indefatigably at movie-business windmills. No, the key player here is Sancho Panza: Daddy’s Girl the servant, the enabler, the rational sceptic whose detachment is faltering, the sorcerer’s apprentice who doesn’t realise that he is being inducted into a mysterious art of creative self-delusion.

Duration: N/A



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My Masterpiece