FIPRESCI 90 Platinum Award

Terry Gilliam

A Fighter for the Cinema of Imagination
Derek Malcolm on Terry Gilliam

If any British director qualifies for the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune it is Terry Gilliam. Does he deserve those slings and arrows, which more than once or twice would have ended the careers of any other film maker? Well, he is extraordinarily ambitious–a fighter for the cinema of imagination who really doesn’t care too much if his budgets make the suits of Hollywood blanch. IF a film needs more money, he will strive to get it.

If he can’t get it, then he’ll still make the film come what may. His other misfortune is that, on several occasions, everything seems to have conspired against him, notably his attempts to make his Don Quixote movie, or his ill-starred epic about Baron Munchausen. Yet despite his hopes of finally beating the system,he has had some a astonishing successes and has gathered a reputation second to few others working within the world cinema culture now. Terry is idolised by so many in the film community that his sometimes chequered career shines brighter than most. Look at Brazil, The Fisher King, Time Bandits and the wonderful Baron Munchausen and you see a director of extraordinary talent who knows more about film making than many a lauded transatlantic tyro.

Terry, born in America, became a British citizen in the late sixties, after being fed up with being hauled over in his Hillman MInx by the LAPD and called a long-haired drug addict. He eventually renounced his American citizenship and a became a fully- fledged member of the Monty Python team as their animator in chief. The effect his amazing work had was profound, and can easily be seen today. When he finally got into feature films, his gusto and imagination led to almost instant fame on another level. That has remained throughout a long and sometimes choppy career,which he says is all about the craziness of current society and the way we might escape it if at all possible. His triumph is that he never gives up and no matter what hurdles are put in front of him he continues to jump them. In many ways he’s a model of what any good film maker should be– a rebel with a cause and an amazingly fertile mindset. His honour from Fipresci is well deserved, providing, of course, that he carries  on trying to make films until he drops. It’s a pretty good certainty that he will.

Derek Malcolm