40. Terry Gilliam
BRAZIL, FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, TWELVE MONKEYS
The characters in Terry Gilliam’s films all have some kind of mental psychosis or affliction. While this may be a reflection on Gilliam himself, it’s more likely that only these characters can reflect the insanity of Gilliam’s style. Having begun doing crude but effective animation for British television, and becoming a member of Monty Python, Gilliam honed his ability to find humor in the most grotesque of images. His films look like live action representations of those drawings, which Gilliam spends several takes getting just perfect. His films all have one foot in reality and one foot in fantasy, though often the second foot is much larger than the first. Starting out with largely childhood-inspired films like Jabberwocky, Time Bandits, and The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen, Gilliam was able to properly put people into live-action cartoons. Later, he moved onto much darker fare. He explored dystopian bureaucracy in arguably his best and most lavish film, Brazil, a film which takes from George Orwell, Luis Bunuel, and Salvador Dali and creates a darkly comedic journey into one paper-pusher’s personal hell. A similar theme was brought up in Twelve Monkeys, wherein a man is forced to travel back in time to prevent a viral outbreak and is constantly at odds with his own sanity. These two films are the best examples of Gilliam’s style enhancing an already good story, something shared by his later film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, an adaptation of the memoir of the same name by gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. Though many are credited as writers, the film is essentially a line-for-line transposition of Thompson’s words onto the screen. Though many had tried, only Gilliam could accurately depict onscreen the madness of Thompson’s words in a wholly visual way. Though his recent films have been plagued by studio control and cast tragedies, Terry Gilliam remains one of cinema’s most innovative talents.
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