A snip at around $43 million, the fantastic 18th century romp that is The Adventures of Baron M unchausen follows director Terry Gilliam’s previous opus, the masterly Orwellian black comedy Brazil, into the halls of over-over-budget infamy. This time, it was mainly to do with working in Rome’s Cinecitta studios without speaking Italian; and getting ripped off because everyone knew it was going to be a biggie; and wasting two weeks in Spain because someone chartered a plane that was too small to accommodate the costumes and they got left behind. The catalogue of chaos goes on and on: ‘This movie was like Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow,’ sighs Gilliam. ‘I tried to get as many people back alive as possible. In the end, we just built a monument to the fallen.’
Hardly an auspicious omen for the finished product, but it’s actually something of a pleasure to report that, despite the occasionally shambling pace, the picture’s extraordinary visual overload makes it one of the most genuinely imaginative screen offerings to have come along in quite a while. Noted stage actor John Neville stars as the 70 year-old German Baron, rejuvenating his waning spirits and helping to save a beseiged city with a series of manically preposterous adventures that ﬂy him to the Moon (for some Cartesian comedy from an uncredited Robin Williams), have him swallowed by a whale, and see him escaping execution by the Turkish sultan.
As you would expect from the former Monty Python animator, and the creator of Time Bandits’ quirky diversity of fictive environments, Gilliam takes great delight in packing the frame with all manner of eye-catching activity. Yet, the period setting to Baron Munchausen enables the crazed American expatriate to recreate the classics of European art on film: ‘When I go to an art gallery I get lost in these painted worlds, but I don‘t see them
on film because movies are so mundane. People say I‘m innovative but I just steal from good sources. We’ve got cherubs from Boucher. Venus from Botticelli. cityscapes from Bellotto, and I could go on. It‘s a good way of communicating what you want.
Needless to say, one doesn‘t need a degree in art history to enjoy the enthusiastic richness of the imagery. but the film’s central conceit that has dreamer Munchausen offsetting the grim scientism of the city fathers with the cheery impossibility of his battles against the Turk beseigers is at one with the rest of the Gilliam canon. Like the boy in Time Bandits and his struggle against the absolute Evil
being who creates digital watches. like Sam in Brazil as he fights the totalitarian technocracy with his naively chivalrous dreams. it‘s the fantasist versus rationality every time.
‘There's the age of Enlightenment. the 18th century when scientific thought as we know it really began, but against that you have the Baron. who‘s a Baroque figure from the
myself I‘m actually doing something worthwhile.‘
Surprisingly enough. Gilliam has already signed up to do his next picture. a mega-budget adaptation of the cult comic book success Watchmen. but for the meantime. despite all the hellish torments of Munchaas'en‘s agonising delivery. he still retains one very special memory: ‘My last night at Cinecitta was dinner
previous century because he creates all these imaginitive worlds that are simply not part ofthe new thinking. So. it’s about the tension between the Age of Reason and the Baroque. or at least that’s how I convince
with Fellini. We ended up walking arm in arm round the Trevi Fountain. Just a great way to end seven months oftrauma.’ (Trevor
Our Pick oi the tortoight's highlights onthe commercial and repertory circuits. . . Formore comprehensive reviews and venue details see the Film index, while complete programme details can he iound in the Film Listings.
THE MOOERNS Ex-pat American bohos in 19205 Paris tangle over love and art in another seriously entertaining opus from Allan Rudolph. master of the post-Altman mosaic. Truly essential. Edinburgh Filmhouse Mar 23—Apr 8.
RAIN MAN Grandstanding performance from Hoffman as the autistic savant brother of dodgy car salesman Tom Cruise in this road movie kidnap drama that‘s cleaned up at the US box office. And justifiably so. Cannons and others from Mar 24. TEOUILA SUNRISE Cop Kurt Russell and would-be ex-drug dealer Mel Gibson vy for the affections of Michelle Pfeiffer in this tough romantic thriller. Script and direction by brilliant screenwriter Robert (Chinatown )Towne. Key Cannons from Mar 31.
LOVE STREAMS John Cassavetes‘ last ﬁlm as director won the Golden Bear at Berlin in 1984. and he stars with spouse Gena Rowlands in an emotional odyssey of telling truthfulness. Edinbugh Cameo Mar 26.
PRODUCTIONS could be
MANNUNTER Michael Mann‘s superb contemporary thriller has William L. Petersen testing his mental reserves as a cop who tracks down deranged killers by attempting to recreate their thought patterns. This Mann is a major cinematic stylist. Glasgow
Film Theatre Apr 4—6.
5 THE THIN BLUE LINE l Astonishing blend of ; documentary and fictive ! elements from talented American independent ' Errol Morris. Interviews : with witnesses in a I recently-reopened controversial Dallas murder case are intriguingly intercut with l old movies and TV cop shows. Edinburgh Filmhouse Mar 30-Apr 1. ;
SEVERAL MAJOR FILM
underway in Scotland within the iorseeahle future. At Black Cat Studios in Glasgow. trash trom the news that a second series oi Halfway To Paradise has just been commissioned, producer Paddy Higson seems set to announce The Silent Scream. and ambitious prison movie that should include both fantasy and animated elements. and which will be directed by David llayman.
Meanwhile National Film School graduate Sandy Johnston. who
made the Screen Two presentation Coast To
Coast with Lenny I'Ienry. hopes to be shooting a two-part film ofAlistair Gray‘s [.anark next year in Glasgow. envisaged along the same lines as Christine Edzard‘s massive adaptation of Little Dorrit.
William Mcllvanney is also about to receive the silver screen treatment. for Palace Pictures have cast Irishman Liam Neeson in The Big Man. which will probably be done on location in Scotland later in the summer. Palace expect to make a high-profile announcement about the director at Cannes. but was the sighting of producer Steve Wooley and David Wish You Were Here Leland in the Ubiquitous Chip merely a coincidence?
OUR REPORT on the funding of Glasgow Film Theatre and Edinburgh Filmhouse has been held over until the next issue.
on sale April 6. I .1 s 3 I I I I
The List 24 March—6 April 198911