Lost In La Mancha


Directed by: Keith Fulton, Louis Pepe
Written by:Keith Fulton, Louis Pepe
Starring: Terry Gilliam, Johnny Depp, Jean Rochefort, Jeff Bridges
Released: October 16, 2003
Grade: A-

Three years ago, director Terry Gilliam was set to make a film called The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.  If you’re not familiar with Gilliam, his previous credits include Time Bandits, The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys and Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas.  Gilliam struggled to get funding for his new in the United States and had to turn to Europe for support.  He could only muster $32m (not nearly enough) but he decided to proceed with production anyway and hope things went perfectly.

History tells us that the exact opposite happened.  Due to conflicting schedules, most of his cast couldn’t find the time to arrive early for valuable rehearsals.  This included Johnny Depp, fresh off the success of Chocolat, and French actor Jean Rochefort (The Man On The Train) who had spent his last seven months learning English so he could tackle the leading role.

Gilliam continued on but once principal shooting began, things only got worse.  A savage storm on day two left the set in disarray.  On day five, Rochefort developed a prostate infection and had to return to France for treatment.  He would never return and the film was never completed.  It was officially “abandoned”.

Lost In La Mancha is a very insightful look at just how difficult it is to make a motion picture.  Throughout the production, Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe shot a lot of “behind the scenes” footage which they initially thought would make a great adage to the dvd.  Instead, their footage has wound up on the big screen in this compelling documentary.

Terry Gilliam remains an optimist throughout it all but from the very start of the shoot, you can see the rumblings from his crew who sense trouble is brewing.  I give credit to all those involved with the initial movie in allowing their thoughts and ideas to be publicly expressed here.  It would be so easy to hide all this material and seeing it, in all its realism, makes it one of the year’s most refreshingly honest releases.

Jeff Bridges, who worked with Gilliam in The Fisher King, narrates the film.  The pictures though do all the talking and despite the unfortunate mess and loss of money that resulted from it all, you can’t help but chuckle at the bad luck that befalls them.  Big names directors Woody Allen and Robert Altman express their support for the film on the poster which serves as a huge endorsement.  They’re not wrong.  It’s destined to be a cult classic and one enjoyed by filmmakers for years to come.