978-0-7893-0265-6 / 9780789302656

Dark Knights and Holy Fools: The Art and Films of Terry Gilliam: From Before Python to Beyond Fear and Loathing





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About the book:

Peculiar beasts, Anglicised Americans. Terry Gilliam came to Britain to escape his illiberal homeland in 1967 on the arm of a girlfriend and ended up as an animator of peculiar beasts for a group of young British performers who became Monty Python's Flying Circus. After cutting his teeth on the group's feature films, the long-haired Young American in the fur jacket cast out on his own, making a series of innovative and uneasy films that established him as a director in his own right, from his interpretation of Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky" in 1977 to the self-described "cinematic enema for the 90s", Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The core of Bob McCabe's book is based on interviews with Gilliam, who is a master of candid self-observation. Where Ian Christie's Gilliam on Gilliam in the Faber Film series is a sober, mid-life contextualising of the artist's oeuvre, McCabe's book is a louder and more colourful cousin, crammed with stills and illustrations. It speaks highly of the director that both representations work; the biography remains essentially the same, and after the legendary struggles to release Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (the story of the former already covered by Jack Mathews' The Battle of Brazil), the anecdotal production detail is well-honed without losing any sparkle. McCabe, an experienced writer on cinema, clearly knows both his and Gilliam's onions, and his contention is that Gilliam remains essential to the modern film world as much for his uncompromising spikiness as his unquestioned vision and technical prowess, while exemplifying the hard graft needed to harness even the most powerful imagination.

That he is still kicking against the pricks and polarising opinion is testament to a funnily serious and urgent director, perhaps only now coming to the peak of a career for which this book serves as an enlightening and affectionate record to date. --David Vincent

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