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September 17, 2013 1:55 PM   Subscribe

How, against all odds, Time Bandits got made. Somehow in the face of a universe that seems dead set against it Terry Gilliam continues making movies today, the latest being Zero Theorem.
posted by Artw (75 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite

 
Trailer
posted by Going To Maine at 1:59 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


On getting Connery for it, for some reason this makes me appreciate him more, and it also makes me appreciate Zardoz more. (Zardoz is bizarre, but the more time passes the more I like it.)
posted by JHarris at 2:13 PM on September 17, 2013


I haven't seen Time Bandits since the early '80s. My parents rented a videodisc machine one weekend and everyone in the family chose a movie. Can't remember why my ten year-old self went with that one, but it was the first movie I remember being utterly confounded by. Coincidentally, I had a similar reaction when I saw Holy Grail at my grandparents' cottage around the same time.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:14 PM on September 17, 2013


Reminds of playing Ultima II, which included a cloth map with time/space gateways.
posted by benzenedream at 2:18 PM on September 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


When I was 11 years old this was the Alpha and Omega of movies. There was something about the title "Time Bandits" and the way the other boys at school would say it. "Have you seen 'Time Bandits' yet?" As though it were the coolest movie in the history of the world.

My son, now 11, loves this movie too.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:18 PM on September 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


During a Reddit AMA a few months ago I asked Eric Idle a few questions about, what is probably my favorite movie ever made, The Adventures of Baron von Munchausen. He replied:

Munchausen the worst experience of my life. I'd rather go back to Boarding School....

In another interview he stated:

"Up until Munchausen, I'd always been very smart about Terry Gilliam films. You don't ever be in them. Go and see them by all means - but to be in them, fucking madness!!!"
posted by joinks at 2:22 PM on September 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


I should watch the few big Terry Gilliam film that I never saw given that I like all the ones I've seen.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:25 PM on September 17, 2013


When my family got our first VCR - in those dim dark days of huge clunky technology - this was the first movie my brother and I rented.

I loved it - both the VCR and the movie.

And tonight I may see if its available on Netflix Canada, to see if it holds up in the modern era.
posted by nubs at 2:28 PM on September 17, 2013


Look at this cast! Christoph Waltz, Tilda Swinton, and Ben Whishaw! I already go see every Gilliam movie in the theater any time one comes out, but I think I'll be there opening night for this one.
posted by ocherdraco at 2:32 PM on September 17, 2013


I should watch the few big Terry Gilliam film that I never saw given that I like all the ones I've seen.

I guess I have the last few saved up for a rainy day... I guess I might be pleasantly suprised despite iffy reviews. Zero Theorem I'm unambiguously excited about though.
posted by Artw at 2:33 PM on September 17, 2013


I used to have three quarters of this movie videotapped on VHS (as the last bit was taped over by something or other), and my brother and I would watch it all the time growing up. Come to think of it now, though, I'm not sure I've ever actually seen the end of it.
posted by likeatoaster at 2:37 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I saw Time Bandits in the theater when I was about 8 and it blew me away. It was my favorite movie for years, even though I had only seen it the one time until it started the rounds on HBO much later. I talked about it incessantly.

The cages suspended over nothingness is cinematic genius. I don't think that has ceased freaking me out, even now. Though I have to say that I saw it fairly recently and can see the imperfections; I love all the Monty Python cast, but everyone's scene just seems like a tacked-on MP sketch. Still, a great film (says my inner 8-year-old).
posted by zardoz at 2:40 PM on September 17, 2013


arguably the greatest movie ever made, although LSD might have something to do with this opinion. Which reminds me ...

Time Bandits came out in late 81 when I was doing a lot of LSD, so it became THE go-to movie for a while. Strangest viewing of all (which I still sometimes think was just a dream) came one night when a fire alarm went off not in the theater, but behind it sort of. Maybe the adjacent building? This, of course, happened right at the end of the film, when (SPOILER ALERT) the kid was waking up from his weird adventure to find the family house on fire, and firemen swarming the scene (including Sean Connery). Meanwhile, in the theater, firemen were hustling up and down the aisles, going in and out of the exit doors at the rear. But nobody ever asked us to move, or leave.

So we sat out the final scene and, acid heads that we were, the entire credit sequence because we liked the theme song, and finally exited the theater only to find three fire trucks parked outside, a crowd gathered, lights flashing, firemen everywhere ... but no evidence of any fire. I supposed we could have asked somebody what was going on, but the mystery of it felt far more interesting, like the movie had something bled out into the real world and fused with it.

So we just laughed and wandered down the block to our favorite pub. Ah, the good ole days.

posted by philip-random at 2:43 PM on September 17, 2013 [17 favorites]


The mud monster in Brothers Grimm gave me the shivers for weeks. Gilliam has definitely got a mind for the unsettling.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:43 PM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I should watch the few big Terry Gilliam film that I never saw given that I like all the ones I've seen.

The only two TG movies I would give a pass on would be Fear and Loathing and The Brothers Grimm. F&L I actually disliked and BG is pretty bland. Everything else by TG I love in some way or another. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus was really really good up until Ledger dies IRL then it feels pieced together, but the performances by Waits and Plummer (and even Lily Cole) are great.

Zero Theorem looks like it may be his best in a long time though. Excited
posted by edgeways at 2:46 PM on September 17, 2013


... but the mud monster scene almost makes Brothers Grimm worth the time. As for Fear + Loathing, I'd take that a dozen times before I'd bother wish Fisher King again. Left me so cold I didn't even bother finishing it.
posted by philip-random at 2:48 PM on September 17, 2013


I remember completely loving Time Bandits. Like, madly, insanely loving it. It showed up on Netflix when I was browsing the other day, and I started watching it, and stopped a few minutes in, because I was afraid I would ruin it by seeing it with my grown up eyes. What if it sucks? What if it's not what I remember, and I hate it? What if...what if it's not as amazing as I remember it being? I almost hate to risk breaking that memory by viewing it again.

After reading that article, I may just give it another go. I don't remember Sean Connery in it, but I wasn't a big fan of James Bond as a young girl, and I don't think I knew who he was until I was older.
posted by routergirl at 2:48 PM on September 17, 2013


Waltz is so plastic in his appearance. It took me ages to figure out who the lead was in the trailer---I knew I knew that face, but couldn't figure out who it was. Looks like something in the Brazil/12 Monkey vein. Very promising.
posted by bonehead at 2:48 PM on September 17, 2013


I watched this with a friend in college, maybe around 10 years ago. It was the first time either of us had seen the film, and I think we watched it after Brazil. It was great! I'm not sure how it would look viewed through the filter of nostalgia. It was fun to hear the movie sampled in a recent Orbital track (The Gun is Good).
posted by filthy light thief at 2:53 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, there's a commentary on the out-of-print Criterion Collection edition of the film, which my college house-mate and I watched for an hour, even though we had stayed up until 1 AM to finish the movie without commentary. We thought "let's see what Gilliam has to say about the film," and we were promptly lost.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:00 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ok, but why does our Netflix put this in the Netflix Kids movies? I guess maybe (can't remember) it has less nudity/extreme violence than other Gilliam movies, but I wouldn't call it a kid movie, per se.

Our kid's still 7 and I was thinking of waiting a few more years, though he did like Baron Munchausen (because he has an obsession with the Grim Reaper). So maybe he could enjoy it.

Did not know about Zero Theorem. A little scared to be excited for it.
posted by emjaybee at 3:09 PM on September 17, 2013


SPOILER ALERT ...

arguably the best ending to any children's film ever



(well, it's almost the ending)
posted by philip-random at 3:11 PM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm sure God dropped by after that and fixed everything up (again).
posted by KokuRyu at 3:22 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


There were far more mentions of accountancy in that article than I expected.
posted by Mchelly at 3:29 PM on September 17, 2013


The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus was really really good up until Ledger dies IRL

Another example of the universe really hating Gilliam for some unstated reason.
posted by Artw at 3:33 PM on September 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


My indie movie theater manager friend says Zero Theorem doesn't have a US distributor yet. So Dec might be optimistic time frame for many of us.
posted by edgeways at 3:36 PM on September 17, 2013




Terry Gilliam is one of my idols. I unabashedly love all of his work, his worldview, what he tries to accomplish in his grand, quixotic (ha), cinematic adventures.
Kevin: He was one of my heroes.

Randall: Heroes! Heroes! What do they know about a day's work?

posted by Celsius1414 at 3:51 PM on September 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


EVIL: Benson, you are so mercifully free of the ravages of intelligence.

BENSON: Oh, thank you, master, you say such nice things.

posted by philip-random at 3:53 PM on September 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


I also recommend Lost in La Mancha about yet another cursed Gilliam movie.
posted by absalom at 3:58 PM on September 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


I've often said that this is the perfect movie for older grade school kids and tweens - it's graduated from the "baby" stuff of most other kids' movies, but it's still got a childlike sense of things. I was also eleven when I saw it and that may have something to do with it.

I've also heard that the original lyrics to the closing theme song George Harrison wrote - which were meant only for Terry's ears - were actually George's review of a rough cut of the movie. It's something Terry said during the George Harrison biopic a couple years back - I can't find any further clarification about whether Terry edited the film after that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:59 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I cannot overstate my Terry Gilliam fandom growing up. I made little clay models of the characters from Time Bandits, and made embarrassing little stop-motion movies with them. Brazil got me so excited I practically danced out of the theater. But in adulthood, my feelings about his movies are more complicated...

Gilliam would strongly disagree, but I think he is fantastic when he has to work within limits and really stumbles when he has the freedom to get totally crazy. (He also desperately needs a good screenwriter to collaborate with and really needs to stop working with Charles McKeown.) Time Bandits and Brazil were both made amidst all sorts of budget limitations and turmoil, and Gilliam was working with talented co-writers, and they are both absolutely fantastic. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and Baron Munchhausen were made without a great script and they have all kinds of great big special effects sequences, and they are endless slogs, almost unwatchable. I've always hoped that Gilliam would team up with Palin or Stoppard again, because he is superb when he has a good writer around to help him shape his spectacular imaginings into an actual movie.

The cages suspended over nothingness is cinematic genius.

If I recall correctly, that sequence was devised in a hurry when a much bigger effects sequence had to be cut. And it's a good example of what I mean... when Gilliam was forced to improvise, he came up with a visceral, unforgettable sequence. The "invisible barrier" scene is another good example. When the dwarfs are all turning on each other, it gets really ugly and genuinely distressing before the surprise reveal that their (totally horrifying and awesome) destination has been right in front of them the whole time.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:04 PM on September 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


Upon review - oh, good, they mention the George lyrics in the article. oops.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:22 PM on September 17, 2013


I saw Time Bandits in the theater because Tron was sold out and hey, look this looks like a good movie. 1982? I was 6 or 7. Yeah, it scared the hell out of me. All I remembered was this scary floating head and being terrified. For years later when friends wanted to watch it because it was so mind blowing (in that way teenagers are so open to having their minds blow) I'd absolutely refuse, having to make up some excuse because you don't want to admit "dear god no, that movie is scary as shit" to other teenagers.

When I finally actually watched it I was both let down and amazed at how great it was.
posted by aspo at 4:32 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it scared the hell out of me. All I remembered was this scary floating head and being terrified.

fear of God -- that's so refreshingly Old Testament. I'm sure the Supreme Being would be delighted.
posted by philip-random at 4:42 PM on September 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


The only two TG movies I would give a pass on would be Fear and Loathing and The Brothers Grimm. F&L I actually disliked


That's only because you're a terrible person, though.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 4:56 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


The only two TG movies I would give a pass on would be Fear and Loathing and The Brothers Grimm.

Lies, lies, and more lies!

Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas is the closest any movie has some to physically depicting a hardcore weekend drug binge on film. The acid moments are exactly right, the devolvement of one's humanity is perfectly portrayed, and the utter chaos of reality by the end is spot on. Plus, Depp is one hell of a good impersonator of Thompson.

The Brothers Grimm is worth seeing for all kinds of reasons, the first of which is the creepy walking trees. There is a lot else to like in that movie, too.

Neither of these are perfect movies. Neither of them has anything like the satisfaction of 12 Monkeys or Brazil or even Baron Munchhausen. But they are definitely worth watching.
posted by hippybear at 5:03 PM on September 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think I was 8 the first time I saw Time Bandits. It colored my childhood imagination in interesting ways. I have lost count of how many times I've watched it since.

A few years ago, I showed it to someone who "doesn't really watch a lot of movies", and she actually said it "wasn't stylized enough", which should have told me a lot more than I was willing to hear at the time.

Also,

TIDELAND.

Tideland.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 5:05 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd say my only complaint about the past couple of Gilliam movies has been his use of CGI rather than practical effects to create his alternate realities. Part of the wonder of watching the early Gilliam films is that what you saw on the screen was actually something which to a certain respect (yes, blue screens were used, overlays, matte paintings, etc) actually existed for a camera to photograph. I would find my brain doing wonderful somersaults trying to piece together how the fuck it all actually managed to be created into something I could watch.

The CGI stuff ruins the wonder for me. He's still a great storyteller with a singular vision, but it's less fun viewing that vision now than it used to be.
posted by hippybear at 5:06 PM on September 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


The author of the script for Zero Theorem, Pat Rushin, was on my thesis committee. Awesome guy. I'm super-stoked for this movie.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 5:07 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Zero Theorem looks rather like a more authentic revision of The Matrix.
posted by sammyo at 5:13 PM on September 17, 2013


And... for those who desire such an object... you can purchase a replica of the Time Bandits cloth map if you follow the Etsy link on that page.
posted by hippybear at 5:21 PM on September 17, 2013


Hahahaha reading through this I thought I read a comment critical of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, but of course that is impossible.

I have found that a modicum of selective memory can be most efficacious.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:22 PM on September 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Just in case hippybear misses the edit window - replica map link here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:26 PM on September 17, 2013


Actually, that replica map isn't necessarily for sale. This one is.
posted by hippybear at 5:33 PM on September 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I just love everything Gilliam. Can't wait for Zero Theorem.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:35 PM on September 17, 2013


FYI, Lost in La Mancha is also available on Netflix.
posted by gwint at 5:58 PM on September 17, 2013


Loved Time Bandits, I think that the only one of his that I didn't like much was Grimm but I've never seen Tideland.
posted by octothorpe at 6:02 PM on September 17, 2013


Considering his current money troubles with the film, he should do a Kickstarter for The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.
posted by BiggerJ at 6:19 PM on September 17, 2013


I still love Time Bandits, though yes, it's a little crude now. I agree that he seems to do better under constraints. I'm also a fan of Handmade Films. They had some losers, but films like Five Corners, Powwow Highway, Track 29, Withnail and I...
posted by Red Loop at 6:49 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


likeatoaster: "Come to think of it now, though, I'm not sure I've ever actually seen the end of it."

It's really good. Also really depressing, almost as depressing as the ending of The Breakfast Club.
posted by jiawen at 7:03 PM on September 17, 2013


"Mom! Dad! It's evil! Don't touch it!"

Best. Children's. Movie. Ending. Ever.
posted by hippybear at 7:07 PM on September 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also,

TIDELAND.

Tideland.


Ugh, I had forgotten about this movie. I loves me some Terry Gilliam, and I suppose I should read the source material, but I just wonder what the hell he was thinking making this. And I didn't have a problem, really, with the kinda squicky scenes of flirtation with the young girl and the mentally challenged adult man, which I remember being criticized when it was released. What really drove me nuts about that movie was that for easily half the run time, the only characters in the film are the little girl and her finger puppets--that's it! The girl (her character, that is) is arguably insane, and she speaks her finger puppet characters in a weird voice that's all but incomprehensible. It's risky putting a child as your main character for that much of a film, and it just didn't work in Tideland. It was such a slog to get through.
posted by zardoz at 7:08 PM on September 17, 2013


ocherdraco: "Look at this cast! Christoph Waltz, Tilda Swinton, and Ben Whishaw! I already go see every Gilliam movie in the theater any time one comes out, but I think I'll be there opening night for this one."

Y'all need to stop taunting me with unreleased essential films that will prolly never make to where I live. I was just telling a good friend "NEW GILLIAM MOVIE!" since he and I both love Gilliam's movies like Time Bandits and Dr. Parnassus and Munchausen with a passion, and I, for one, list Brazil amongst my top favorites (not the least bit for being the closest thing we will EVER see for Paranoia on the big screen...)
posted by Samizdata at 7:10 PM on September 17, 2013


When I was a kid, me and my friends used to draw giant versions of what we imagined the Time Bandits map looked like, on pieces of taped together notebook paper.

My older brother always used to say something like: "Time Bandits is the fantasy of a kid, Brazil is the fantasy of a middle aged guy, and Munchausen is the fantasy of an old man, it's all different moments in the same big movie."
posted by sevensixfive at 7:36 PM on September 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


Tideland is amazing and awesome. One of the only accurate movies about childhood.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:38 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember his movie re-running all the time on HBO in 1983 or 1984. My Dad taped it for my sister and I and we watched it MANY times. To this day, we can still crack each other up with the lines:

"It's some kind of invisible barrier!"

"Oh, so THAT'S what an invisible barrier looks like!"

posted by zooropa at 8:11 PM on September 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Best quote from the article:

When it came to describing the character of Agamemnon, the stage direction simply read: ‘The Greek warrior removes his helmet, revealing himself to be none other than Sean Connery, or an actor of equal but cheaper stature.’ It was largely put in as a joke."

Some joke. They ended up casting SEAN CONNERY. The surreality of that is very British, very Pythonesque.
posted by zooropa at 8:14 PM on September 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was just wondering the other day how that George Harrison song was supposed to fit with the movie when it came up on my mp3 player.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:25 PM on September 17, 2013


Pretty much love all of Gilliam's movies that I've seen.
The visual imagination is staggering. I heard that Zero Theorem is as close to Warren Ellis' "Transmetropolitan" as it gets, so of course I can't wait.

Re" Time Bandits (an all time fave)
I love the fact that The Supreme Being makes you sign a ledger if you meet him, but I would pay American CashDollars for the full text of the Evil's "We shall turn the mountains into sea" speech.
Puts a whole new spin on the concept of the banality of evil, so to speak...
posted by djrock3k at 9:21 PM on September 17, 2013


TIDELAND:

Terry Gilliam Speaks.
posted by ovvl at 9:25 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Where the 'ell are we?

"Time Bandits" is awesome! I especially loved the performance of the actor who played "the nice one" near the end. If there was a god, I would hope he'd be just like that.

"Dead? No excuse for getting out of work."

Plus, the Harrison song at the end is great as well.

I was so saddened when I heard of Rappaport's death.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 9:30 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am now jonesin' for a Gilliam movie marathon. Gotta catch 'em all.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:16 AM on September 18, 2013


I want to see this movie right now, but I am sworn off time travel.
posted by digitalprimate at 4:52 AM on September 18, 2013


"Time Bandits is the fantasy of a kid, Brazil is the fantasy of a middle aged guy, and Munchausen is the fantasy of an old man, it's all different moments in the same big movie."

yeah, I've heard those three films compared in similar ways a few times, perhaps even by Terry Gilliam himself
posted by edgeways at 5:42 AM on September 18, 2013


I knew that time bandits was a cobbled-together movie in a number of ways, but it still managed to hold together.

SPOILER

For example, in the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness, the dwarfs bring in help from all throughout time: cowboys, bowmen, knights, a tank, a space ship. These are all toys in Kevin's room. The fortress itself is made out of giant Lego bricks. There's a pretty good argument for it all being a boy's dream/nightmare: the devil was the host of the game show on when he was going to bed, etc.

Gilliam has this love for the filthy, organic side of our existence. I haven't seen all his work, but I can't think of one that I have seen that is missing that element. Brazil, Jabberwocky, Time Bandits, Holy Grail, Life of Brian, Fisher King, 12 Monkeys, Fear and Loathing, Munchausen, Brothers Grimm: all grubby and held together with typewriter parts and plastic ponchos.

Based on experience, I think the best way to get a film out of him is to have a blockbuster budget, but tell Gilliam that you only have a few million.

God isn't interested in technology. He knows nothing of the potential of the microchip or the silicon revolution. Look how He spends His time! Forty-three species of parrots! Nipples for men!
posted by plinth at 7:29 AM on September 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Slugs!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:30 AM on September 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can't see, can't hear, can't operate machinery!
posted by plinth at 9:22 AM on September 18, 2013


There's a scene in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen where two of the Baron's old gang (Adolphus and Gustavus) are found trapped in the belly of a sea creature, where they spend all their time playing cards and arguing. Both agree that they must be dead. One thinks it's obvious that they've gone to hell; the other thinks they've gone to heaven.

Reading through the comments here, I note that everyone agrees Gilliam is some kind of flawed cinematic genius, producing masterpieces and unbearable flops in equal measure. But nobody agrees on which are the masterpieces and which are the flops. Some say this one is hell, others say that one is heaven.

So obviously what I'm saying is: Terry Gilliam wants us to think we're all dead already.
posted by Western Infidels at 11:00 AM on September 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


for me, it's his first three films that I can't help but keep coming back to.

Jabberwocky
Time Bandits
Brazil

Everything subsequent is either him doing sort of hired hand work (often brilliant but never really his story) or chasing a personal vision that he just isn't catching.

But those first three films are goddamned masterpieces of attainment. Not perfect by any means, but so bloody fun and wild and mad -- who cares? It's like rock music in a lot of ways. The best band aren't at their best when they nail every note, every harmony, every nuance to perfection. It's when their still young and free enough to not care that a little grit's showing. The energy's the thing.
posted by philip-random at 11:16 AM on September 18, 2013


everyone agrees Gilliam is some kind of flawed cinematic genius

flawed? I said no such thing. all other film makers are flawed in that they are not Terry Gilliam.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:03 PM on September 18, 2013


Yeah I wouldn't say he "is flawed" any more than any of us, and his masterpieces far outweigh his flops for me. One I don't like one I'm ambivalent about and all the rest are highly worthwhile, would it be that any other artist have such a record
posted by edgeways at 2:41 PM on September 18, 2013


Gonna jump on the Tideland bandwagon, I think it's his most beautiful film (and I love the intro to it posted just above).
posted by the bricabrac man at 3:27 PM on September 18, 2013


This is great. Thanks, Artw.
posted by homunculus at 4:37 PM on September 18, 2013


Perfectly timed - watching it again on BBC America right now.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:55 PM on September 22, 2013


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