By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Two Beers) –
Turkish invaders have laid siege to a large, unnamed European city. As cannonballs rain down, the City officials and civilian populace watch a play about Baron Munchausen (German Nobleman famous for telling Tall Tales). In the midst of this performance, an old and disheveled man approaches the stage, and claims to be the real Baron. Embarrassed by the fact that no one believes him, he walks from the theater in defeat. He is then confronted by Sally; a curious child named who continues to hound him with questions. A series of unlikely circumstances sends the Baron and Sally out of the city, and on an adventure which shows a truth far stranger than fiction.
And an Uma far more jailbait than legal…
Terry Gilliam’s Munchausen is notorious as one of the biggest box office failures of all time, made even more infamous for going well over the initial budget of $23 million dollars (finishing production at roughly $46.63 million). The film ultimately grossed less than $10 million dollars worldwide. As a result of this, the movie is often dismissed without being given a fair viewing. In truth, Munchausen is one of the most ambitious fantasy films of its time, with numerous admirable aspects, of which I will outline three:
1) The Visuals: Terry Gilliam, alongside Cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno and production designer Dante Ferretti, creates a surreal fantasy world, from a European city walled-in (both physically and psychologically) to the lavish palaces of the Turks to the fires of hell and the belly of a whale. The camerawork takes great advantage of wide lenses to give the sets a cavernous feel, and is complimented by immensely eccentric set and costume design.
Albeit sometimes quite confusing
2) The Acting: Young Sarah Polley delivers a wonderful performance, and easily eclipses other child actors of the day. John Neville as the eponymous Baron is the ultimate liar, whose exploits are nothing less than impossible, which somehow makes the viewer that much more likely to believe in them. He is a contradiction in nearly every way; sensitive and cantankerous, a gentleman and yet a clown. Of course, these contradictions suit the character brilliantly. The film is also full of small supporting actor moments that are simply wonderful to watch.
3) The Story: This movie is the third in an unofficial trilogy of films Terry Gilliam created based around the concept of imagination. Time Bandits explored the imagination of a child, Brazil the imagination of a Government Bureaucrat, and Munchausen covers the imagination of an old man. Like Don Quixote, the Baron loves to see himself as a man whose feats of greatness are beyond counting. And the story makes it clear that the world is better with fantasy and ridiculousness, as it allows us to escape gruesome reality. To Gilliam, the “real world” is filled with callous men whose interests are only in weeding out exceptional individuals, for fear that they’d disrupt their comfortable existence. These people are officious, ignorant, useless to the betterment of society, and worst of all; boring.
Although Jonathan Pryce’s shades are simply faaaaaabuloooous!
While the movie is very inventive, sometimes it can be too inventive. The film grinds to a (thankfully brief) halt in a sequence featuring the “King of the Moon” played by Robin Williams in all his 80’s glory. This sequence is played so over the top that it is obnoxious. Williams is an actor who can be capable of great subtlety and depth, but also gross miscalculation. Thankfully, this sequence is not at all necessary to the movie’s plot and can today be easily overcome with fast-forward. And the rest of the film is fantastic, so don’t let this moment kill the rest of the movie for you.
Cocaine is a hell of a drug…
I cannot tell a lie, this movie is pretty cool. Though perhaps a bit over-the-top at times.
Take a Drink: whenever the Baron mentions beautiful ladies
Do a Shot: whenever the Baron proves himself right
Fuck it, just drink heavily: when you see the King of the Moon