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Premieres & Events

Unwatchable? Gilliam Brings Tideland to NYC

"Ten to 15 percent of the critics get it," Terry Gilliam said of his disconcerting new film Tideland, which screened in a preview Monday at the Museum of the Moving Image. Set in a Psycho-lookalike Midwestern farmhouse and featuring a damaged orphan, four doll's heads, a retard and a fake witch, the film is very much a fairy tale that turns into a nightmare -- for the audience as well as its characters. Called "unreleasable" by Village Voice critic J. Hoberman a year ago at Toronto, the film finally opens Oct. 13th in New York

First greeted by an awkward silence, the film received applause from the fans who had come to welcome the eccentric director after the screening. "I'm just an old man playing with dolls," said the Monty Python alumnus, 65, smiling in his beach shirt and ponytail. But the low-budget Tideland, adapted from Mitch Cullin's novel, is more than just Gilliam and his dolls; he explained how the film stands against the sentimentalization of childhood, bringing to mind a memorable scene in the beginning during which the 11-year-old main character, Jeliza-Rose, prepares her "junkie asshole" daddy Jeff Bridges' heroin fix. "Nobody wanted to touch this thing," Gilliam said. "The subject is so tricky that we couldn't find any money. So I did Brothers Grimm."

Gilliam's creative freedom, madness and self-acknowledged "obsession with details" are always highly enjoyable; he acknowledged that he tries to get some kind of reaction from the audience -- any kind of reaction, even nausea. Referring to the potentially polemic and "morally problematic" aspects of the film, he said he likes to "push a lot of buttons." Indeed, Tideland pretty much addresses everything uncomfortable, from human taxidermy to pedophilia. I found it pleasantly disturbing, perverse and sick, though as the gloriously photographed reverie goes on and Gilliam's wild imagination runs free, his excess becomes grotesque, and the monstrous, nightmarish Tideland never reaches the frenzied genius of Twelve Monkeys or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Tideland played numerous film festivals and was dismissed by critics who expected more of the Weinstein-produced Brothers Grimm, which Gilliam edited at the same time. Defying the logic that movies are self-explanatory, the director added a short introduction, facing the camera and warning viewers, "Many of you are not going to like this film."

"The thing is that you really don't know where the film is going," Gilliam said after the screening. "The structure of films now is so predictable and boring that people get annoyed at Tideland." -- Clementine Gallot

Posted at October 3, 2006 11:58 AM

Comments (1)

Hmmm. I'm a Gilliam fan, a huge one- and after watching Lost in La Mancha, I have a great deal of sympathy for the guy. But after Brothers Grimm, hearing that he's gone so far as to hand out flyers in front of the Daily Show (he did yesterday) and film intros to his films telling people they may not like it worries me a bit.

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