Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Lost In La Mancha chronicles the unmaking of Terry Gilliam’s Don Quixote film

Illustration for article titled iLost In La Mancha/i chronicles the unmaking of Terry Gilliam’s Don Quixote film

Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: Room 237 has us thinking about documentaries about movies.

Lost In La Mancha (2002)
Terry Gilliam making a movie about Don Quixote seems as on-the-nose as Steven Spielberg making a movie about Peter Pan. We may never know whether The Man Who Killed Don Quixote would have been another Hook, though, as a series of disasters shut down production just a few days after it began. Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe’s entertaining documentary Lost In La Mancha chronicles the project’s undoing from the inside—the duo had previously shot a making-of piece for Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys, and were given nearly unlimited access—and it’s almost amusing, in a ghastly way, to watch as one damn thing after another befalls the poor guy. Fighter jets continually scream overhead, ruining shot after shot. Lead actor Jean Rochefort injures himself so badly, he can barely sit on his horse. A flash flood carries much of the equipment away. Eventually, there’s nothing to do except admit defeat and give up.

Thankfully, nobody died—a similar documentary about Gilliam’s The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus, which lost star Heath Ledger to an accidental drug overdose near the end of the shoot, would be a much grimmer affair (though that film miraculously survived). Quixote folding may or may not be a great loss to cinema, but we do at least have this record of Gilliam expressing endless frustration with the suits who hold the purse strings, along with some stunning footage from the handful of days when things weren’t actively falling apart. Fulton and Pepe are clearly fans and friends, so Lost In La Mancha never goes for the jugular; the repeated equation of Gilliam with Don Quixote himself, tilting furiously at corporate windmills, is born entirely of admiration, not scorn. But given everything the man has been through over the years (see also: Brazil), a fawning tribute to his stoic endurance feels altogether apt.


Availability: This one is everywhere: streaming on Netflix and Hulu Plus, available for digital rental on Amazon and iTunes, out there on good old DVD.

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