THE FISHER KING
DIRECTOR: TERRY GILLIAM
WRITTEN BY: Richard LaGravenese
MUSIC: George Fenton
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Roger Pratt
With: Jeff Bridges, Robin Williams, Mercedes Ruehl (Oscar Winning Role), Amanda Plummer
ONE WORD: Super Point: Fun. and weird, nice for a change.
Terry Gilliam has come up with yet another film he is qualified for. Another grail story, this time a real symbol of achievement, instead of a dream.
"Brazil" had its search for an individual grail. And Mr. Lowry gets it, even if the society he was a part of doesn't think he got there,... ( ... I think we've lost him,... and he is smiling as the credits begin rolling. )... In "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen", the Baron is in search of his own grail, the fountain of youth, and his stories keep him young and fit, allowing him to enjoy his challenging adventures. And in the Search for the Holy Grail, of course, a satire on medieval customs and the grail itself.
If anything, and the most fun part of this film is without any doubt, Robin Williams. Robin and Gilliam are good friends from the same school districts, and obviously have a knack for working together. In the Baron film Robin plays the King of the Moon (all ad libbed, I'm sure he was told to do and say anything he wished to, and the dialogue has a certain freedom to it which is more Robin Williams than it is a scripted effort) and is billed as Re di Tutto, which in Italian means King of All, undoubtedly, a comment about how Terry feels about his friend Robin. and it was most likely the freedom he had been given in the Baron, which probably landed his feet in the King Fisher as the downtrodden professor who has been impossibly in love with the image of his ex wife who had been shot several years before. This character is damaged. And Robin Williams plays it to the hilt. It may be his best roll since The Dead Poets Society. And the film doesn't quit.
The story of this film is ,... well, typical New York,... a disk jockey is a real ash..... on the air and takes it out on his audience (Howard Stern is the prototype, by the way) until one day one of his regular callers goes out and shoots a whole group of people in a restaurant. This flips the DJ. And specially double flipped when the disk jockey in his drunken stupor comes across a knight who will defend him,... who just happens to be the husband of one of the victims in that massacre. This knight has been errand since then. And he now lives a sheltered existence, in the low parts of Manhattan. He is now, several years later, in love with a new woman, but he is too shy to get to her, so his daily routine is centered around watching her going to work, then going to lunch, then going home, with all her clumsiness, awkward glasses, and your basically ugly hairdo. The DJ's girlfriend has a video store, where Jack works occasionally when the drinks haven't gotten the best of him. And as Jack gets to know his new friend, he decides he wants to repay him for the unkindness. When money doesn't work, he sets out to figure out what to do. When he finds the obsession with the girl, he sets off a plan to have them meet. Through the bumbling, and a really funny dinner date, Jack gets to know his new princess. But in the process, the ghost of the past (in the form of a fiery knight on horseback chasing him with a long jousting pole) is threatening to do him in. He needs the holy grail which is in the mansion of a New York rich man. Jack decides to go get the grail, when his friend has fallen for the curse of his past, in a coma. In the process, he accidentally saves the life of the rich man and his role of savior is now doubled up. He takes the grail to his friend in a coma and hopes for the best. The poor girl with whom he had a date has been taking care of her friend with a large amount of devotion, the sheets are pretty (and gawdy too, but pretty nevertheless), the pajamas are colorful, the flowers are alive,... and soon so is our friend, leading the ailing patients in a rousing chorus.
Robin Williams as the victim, is better than ever. His ability to invent dialogue to fit the scene is excellent, given a director who is not afraid of what an actor will do. And Jeff Bridges as the disk jockey, must have had a heck of a time with Williams, because the frustration he endures with this character is short of amazing. I don't think that Jeff knew what was going to happen next. Their moments together are very well done, at times, even the camera has a hard time following the action (there are moments in Central Park where the actors bop in and out of the view, and the camera is frantically trying to keep up with them,.. which is an old Python gag, which Benny Hill also copied. It requires, very good actors, and an extreme amount of continuity for it to work. Three quarters of this type of material shot ends up in the trash can,... should tell you how difficult it is to do.) but, it manages to keep it all going.
The insanity of the main character will have you really jumping, and there probably isn't a better person to do it than Robin Williams.
This time the fears are alive and well in front of the main character, where in "Brazil" it was in a cartoon form, so to speak. The fact that Jack does not see these things amplifies the comedy of it all, if not the man's insanity. We see it, he sees it, but the person he is communicating with never does. This type of thing was done a lot in the fifties as one of the common gags for the GOON SHOW (Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe) where a common dialogue went like this ... 'did you hear anything?'.. no, ,.. only idiots can hear anything, it's silent TNT,.. (we hear the explosion , they don't) , ....the audience is hung out to dry...
Terry Gilliam has learnt very well and created a very impressive repertoire of material, always on the edge of sanity, or at least always questioning sanity and where does it belong in society. He is by far the most talented director of comedy today, capable of working with the type of material which most people are afraid of working with, the odd kind, and of course, the holy grail kind, because no one is better qualified than him.
A must see film. Fun to the end. And it doesn't let you down,... ever,.. dig the postcard messenger,...
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