THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN   
DIRECTOR:                    TERRY GILLIAM
ENGLAND/USA 1988)
CINEMATOGRAPHY:   GIUSEPPE ROTUNNO
SUPER FEATURES:       Script and the visionary faithfulness to a story
SCRIPT:                          CHARLES McKEOWN and TERRY GILLIAM
CAST:                             JOHN NEVILLE (THE BARON), ERIC IDLE (DESMOND & BERTOLD), SARAH POLLEY ( SALLY ), OLIVER REED ( VULCAN ), JONATHAN PRYCE (HORATIO JACKSON), RAY COOPER, RAY D. TUTTO ( ROBIN WILLIAMS ), OFFICER ( STING ), RUPERT ( CHARLES McKEOWN )
MUSIC:                           MICHAEL KAMEN


If you are into fun, silly, and well done films that are not always for children then this film is for you.

It has a bit of this, a bit of that, a lot of Monty Python subtleties, and it is funny, without being boring. It is a constant bombardment of visionary ideas, within the context of a fantasy story about a mythic hero, named Baron Munchausen. And the film is the series of vignettes of this famous European legend, which had been done previously as a film, but only in a
cartoon format. This time, Terry Gilliam displays his ability to mix real, unreal and surreal in one swell foop, without distracting or taking away from each vignette or the actual story.

The improvement over the original story is in the setting of the story for the film. A theatre is created in a city which is at war with the Turks, and in this theatre they are producing a story about a mythical Baron, and his adventures. The only catch is that the real Baron appears, and is insulted by the bad theatre, the bad stories, the bad style with which it is being told, and he proceeds to tell the audience how, and what happened. The idea is that his story telling is excellent, because the audience, and us, fall completely for the tale, in that the screen is now completely absolved by the story and its details. And one scene, right at the start, specially denotes this unity, and also states rather clearly, that the division
between reality and vision, or sight, or story, is nil, and that there shouldn't be one. This has been one of Terry Gilliam's main themes in all his films, whereupon, each character reaches his/her 'grail' when these two meet. I think this is a good point, and should be considered, when our social mores do not make room for one's escape and well being from being involved with what otherwise would be considered a childish behavioral pattern. There is no such thing as a childish pattern, so says Terry Gilliam and his cohort writer Charles McKeown, who has been famous for writing much 'rubbish' (his words, not mine) for the telly and the big tubb'er ( film ). Charles McKeown got his start way back when with Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, and Harry Secombe as the Goons. There he helped write a few of the scripts in the last year. He went on to be a part of 'Beyond the Fringe' (later also Behind the Fridge, Beyond the Fringe) which was the first time Peter Cook and Dudley Moore worked together. Charles McKeown's skits were often the intellectual ones no one could understand, but Peter Cook could act them out ( he has a PHD, and is a Cambridge Scholar, and editor of a MAD like magazine in England. ) and make sense of them. Terry Gilliam must have remembered some of those bits, which became played with by the group he was a part of, as in-jokes, and constant innuendoes about past comedy and comedians.

There are several excellent bits of parody in this film. The best is Ray D. Tutto (who else but Robin Williams) as the king of the moon, a skit about the head being separated from the body at crucial times (like when you are not into it, or so...) specially when the king has his mind set on his wife, and she has her mind set on the Baron. Robin's lines are as free form as they come, and non stop gibberish of the funny kind.

Another very funny bit, requires a bit of art knowledge to really appreciate. It is the Birth of Venus. When the Baron lands in heaven, Vulcan is busy at work, and the first thing we see, when the Baron arrives in the castle, is an incredible shell opening up, and a nude maiden is standing in it, and she is then dressed by the angels and nymphs around her. A beautiful send up to Botticelli's The Birth of Venus. Right down to hair color and body sculpture. The only thing missing is a 'pause' or 'freeze frame' as Luis Bunuel once did in Viridiana, when all the paupers are having their last supper.

It isn't very often a good, and well done, film comes around that also entertains while it moves along. It moves briskly like a child film might, and it also has the type of resolution to each skit which is appealing to a child. And it also knows how to keep children at bay. "... Baron, what are they doing ? ... Errr, hah,... they are playing footsie. "

It's a fun film to see. Show it to the kids, too.

5 GIBLOONS

 

   

      

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