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December 03, 2011

Terry Gilliam on ‘Dark Knight,’ ‘Tintin’ and ‘Transformers’

Posted in: Movies

Johnny Depp and Terry Gilliam on the set of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (Universal)

We’re still hearing a lot of response to our biggest article this week, “Terry Gilliam: The heir of Fellini and the enemy of God?,” but the story isn’t quite done yet.

Gilliam, the director of “Brazil” and “Twelve Monkeys,” is a man of fiery opinions and during our two interviews (covering three hours and spread over two days) he lobbed a few Molotov cocktails in different directions. So, with quotes that didn’t make it into that first article, we bring you the World According to Gilliam:

* On “Transformers: Dark of the Moon“: “The latest ‘Transformers’ movie was on the plane coming over to Los Angeles. It’s horrible and there’s all these phallic things going on. I just couldn’t even deal with it. C’mon, leave some room for me, as the audience. The audience is totally excluded, you just sit there and watch the explosions. I couldn’t tell you what the movie was about. A lot of the audience is happy not to get involved. They’ve been working some [awful] job all day long and you just want to go out to a movie. That’s fine, that’s great. But I prefer something that catches you off guard and makes you think and feel and walk out different from when you came in…with ‘Transformers,’ with the building falling down and everything, there are great images but how can people slide down a crashing building without consequence, without physics? It’s just numbing. The movie hammers the audience into submission. They are influenced by video games but in video games at least you are immersed, in these movies you’re left out. And in the movies, humans are only there to fall and run around and, somehow, go through windows without getting cut to shreds.”

* On Hollywood scores: “John Williams is a great musician but, wow, enough John. It isn’t his choice, of course, it’s the directors who allow him to take over a film and tell you exactly what you should be feeling every second of every minute of the film. I want people to come out with very different ideas of what the film is so they are real participants in the film as opposed to just paying observers. Most films now won’t let you in.”

* On “The Adventures of Tintin“: “I don’t want to pick on certain films but it’s opened in Europe and I’ve seen it and it’s also relentless. Unrelenting. Can you just slow down for a moment? There is no arc of the character for once, at least, it’s just, ‘Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go, and now get ready for the sequel.’ Technically, it’s phenomenal. The chase scene is extraordinary but it’s strange that everyone is excited that it’s a single camera move but, um, it’s an animated film!  Big deal. I read one article that said that they had to put several Tintin stories in there to pack it out. But actually you didn’t. Just tell one and slow down a bit and let people breathe. I think there’s an insecurity because it’s not even a roller coaster anymore; because at least a roller coaster slows down at some point and has dips and tension.”

* On Steven Spielberg and James Cameron: “I always wanted to do more with the camera when I was younger. When I first started seeing stuff that Spielberg was doing I remember thinking, ‘God, how does he move the camera like that?’ That’s brilliant.’ And even Jim Cameron, too, I was so envious of that stuff. I know I can’t do it. I don’t have the money to do it. And I don’t actually quite have the skills. The closest I ever got was stealing the tracking shots from ‘Paths of Glory‘ for ‘Brazil.’ All those tracking shots of Kirk Douglas in the trenches, that’s where I got it from. Those were the most elaborate shots I ever did. My stuff is really old, classical [stuff]. There’s a wide shot, a mid-shot and a close. [Instead] it’s about using juxtaposition or you counter something and let the ironies float through. To me it’s always been about the ideas. It’s not the technical skill because I’ve been limited in that.”      

* On digital effects: “They are a Damocles sword. Any of this stuff you use is just a tool but there’s this rush now for photorealism and it bothers me. There’s so much overt fantasy now that I don’t watch a lot of the films because everything is possible now. There’s no tension there. Where’s the tension? Is it possible? Will you succeed? Will gravity take over? None of those things are part of the equation anymore. The denial of reality and consequence was fun when these movies began but now it’s been 20 years of this stuff. I keep waiting for the public to get fed up with it but then I worry that now it’s been here so long the audience is trained that this is what movies are meant to be.” 

 * On Christopher Nolan and “The Dark Knight”: “The car chase stuff in ‘Dark Knight’ is a video game; it is shot-for-shot, as you would get it in a video game like Grand Theft Auto. He’s got a weird balance; he understands all of that – the energy of it – so he chooses to put it in there yet he’s also a very intelligent filmmaker who can do all sorts of things. He’s incredibly good. With ‘Inception,’ I wondered why all of the dreams were action movies. Don’t people have other dreams? And what’s interesting about the films are they are asexual. Maybe that’s the problem. Women can represent danger in them but no one seems to be having sex in these movies. In society overall, we have all this porn, 24 hours a day, so everyone can [masturbate] but I wonder is anyone having real sex anymore? I ask myself these questions.”

– Geoff Boucher

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