In Quixote, Gilliam has another great tilt at movie windmills

Orson Welles never did get round to making his movie version of Don Quixote. He started filming it in 1955 and was still talking about it just before he died in 1985. The Man of La Mancha, based on the stage musical and with a showstopper of a song, “The Impossible Dream”, managed to cast an actor who could not sing in the lead role.

The subject must be the film-maker’s equivalent of tilting at windmills.

It has taken Terry Gilliam 25 years to finish his version, and he still needed to skirt past one last challenge from lawyers before he presented his version of the Cervantes novel at the Cannes Film Festival.

Gilliam’s film is one of the highlights of next month’s programme at the David Lean Cinema. Gilliam’s films, from the glorious Time Bandits through Brazil (which also starred the always excellent Jonathan Pryce), to Quixote, with a couple of Pythons along the way, he always seems able to make what have been described as “kids’ films for grown-ups”. And they have framed a career in movie-making full of every bit as much genius as Croydon’s Oscar-winning director.

Terry Gilliam: makes kids’ films for grown-ups

According to the Guardian, “although it doesn’t have the visually ambitious and even revolutionary style of Brazil and 12 Monkeys – nor the hard edge of my own favourite of his later films, Tideland from 2006 – it is a film of sweet gaiety and cheerful good nature, an interesting undertow of poignancy, and with a lovely leading turn from Jonathan Pryce as the chivalric legend himself”.

Peter Bradshaw writes, “This is a film with a sentimental respect for its source material – but Gilliam has new and vigorous insights to offer… the key player here is Sancho Panza: the servant, the enabler… the sorcerer’s apprentice who doesn’t realise that he is being inducted into a mysterious art of creative self-delusion.”

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote screens at the David Lean on April 14, part of a month’s programme which begins with the winner of the 2019 Best Movie Oscar, Parasites (is it only in Trump’s America that the director, Bong Joon-ho, could be asked on Oscar night – by Fox News, inevitiably – “Just what made you decide to make the film in Korean?”), as well as Emma (including a Babes In Arms morning screening), Military Wives, the intriguing The Lighthouse, and the gripping, and important, drama Dark Water.

Tickets for April’s films go on sale today.

  • Tickets for screenings are £7.50. Concessions (Freedom Pass-holders, full-time students, claimants and disabled) £6; Under-25s are £5.

David Lean Cinema programme for April

All films are screened at 2.30pm and 7.30pm, unless stated

Wed Apr 1 PARASITE (15)
2019 Kor 132min (Korean with English subtitles) Dir: Bong Joon-ho
Stars: Kang-ho Song, Sun-kyun Lee, Yeo-jeong Jo

South Korean director Bong Joon Ho’s film of extremes is set in a society of polarised people. A visual feast of a black comedy where the characters are all unsympathetic and there is a lot to laugh at. The action is sited in the dire poverty of the semibasement dwellers near the sewers and those who live splendidly on the hill and how they predicate on each other in their own particular vacuum. Excellent performances.

Thu Apr 2 EMMA (U)
2020 UK 116min Dir: Autumn de Wilde
Stars: Anya Taylor-Joy, Bill Nighy, Josh O’Connor

Jane Austen’s esteemed comedy is reimagined in a quirky new adaptation. Emma Woodhouse is a young headstrong woman with a love of meddling in other people’s lives. The talented British cast, including Anya Taylor-Joy and Bill Nighy, delivers a light-hearted satire of social class and coming of age in the 19th century. The soft palette and visuals provide a gorgeous background to let the hilarity unfold in Autumn de Wilde’s directorial feature debut.

Tue Apr 7 WAVES (15) (7.30pm)
2019 USA 136min Dir: Trey Edward Shults
Stars: Kelvin Harrison Jr., Lucas Hedges, Taylor Russell

How can a driven, suburban Florida family, beset by abuse, addiction and grief, pick up the pieces after a catastrophic event? Director Shults, already known for his focus on families, skilfully adopts differing characters’ perspectives in this tragedy, brilliantly mirroring the action with his use of colour contrasts and a superb pop and hip-hop score underpinned by the excellent ensemble cast.

2019 Fr 122min (Fr/It with English subtitles) Dir: Céline Sciamma
Stars: Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, Luàna Bajrami

In 18th century France, artist Marianne is hired by an Italian noblewoman to secretly paint her recalcitrant daughter, Héloïse. Under the guise of being her companion, Marianne uses their time together to sketch and paint her subject, from memory. After Héloïse becomes aware of Marianne’s lingering gazes, they begin to develop a relationship. Sciamma (Girlhood) creates a ‘superbly elegant, enigmatic drama’.

Tues Apr 14 EMMA (U) (11am)
Babes in Arms screening
2020 UK 116min Dir: Autumn de Wilde

As Apr 2 above

Tue Apr 14 THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE (15) (7.30pm)
2018 UK 132min Dir: Terry Gilliam
Stars: Adam Driver, Jonathan Pryce, Jason Watkins, José Luis Ferrer

Can a film reach legendary status purely through the length of time it is stuck in development? The final film seems like a triumph: after 29 years struggling to find funding, a first attempt at production shut down due to illness and flooding, and numerous recastings, Gilliam has finally managed to bring his project to screen. Though Driver may not seem like the most logical choice to replace a young Johnny Depp, his playfulness here brings out something new. Factor in a magnificent turn from Pryce as Quixote himself, this typically Gilliam wonder of a production is just what it should be – a triumph.

Thu Apr 16 DARK WATERS (12A)
2019 USA 127min Dir: Todd Haynes
Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins

In his last exploration of the subject of eco-poisoning, director Haynes questioned the truth of illness in his sophomore feature, Safe. In his latest, there is no question the poison is real, and something has to be done about it. Casting Ruffalo as a defence lawyer switching desks in an attempt to bring polluting chemical companies to justice, Haynes might just pull off a courtroom thriller the likes of which we’ve been waiting for since the John Grisham adaptations of the 1990s.

Tue Apr 21 THE LIGHTHOUSE (15) (7.30pm)
2019 USA/CAN 109min Dir: Robert Eggers
Stars: Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson, Valeriia Karaman

Director Eggers (The Witch) returns with his second feature-length film. Set on a secluded island off the coast of 19th century New England, Ephraim Winslow (Pattinson) is sent to work as a wickie for Thomas Wake (Dafoe). A storm begins to brew, stranding them together long past the date Winslow is meant to be picked up. With only each other for company, the pair drive each other to insanity…

Thu Apr 23 MILITARY WIVES (12A)*
2019 UK 113min Dir: Peter Cattaneo
Stars: Kristin Scott Thomas, Jason Flemyng, Sharon Horgan

A highly enjoyable, truly British comedy from director Cattaneo (The Full Monty) observes the morale-boosting tactics of a colonel’s wife’s assembling a choir from a disparate group of soldiers’ anxious wives facing another perilous tour of Afghanistan by their spouses. Despite very humorous rivalry between cool officer’s wife Kate (Scott Thomas) and verbally adept, feisty Lisa (Horgan), the choir helps all the women cope with the trauma of war.
*The 2.30pm screening will be subtitled for those with hearing loss

Tue Apr 28 LITTLE JOE (12A) (7.30pm)
2019 UK/AUT/GER 105min Dir: Jessica Hausner
Stars: Emily Beecham, Ben Whishaw, Kerry Fox

A team of scientists, led by Alice (Beecham) have genetically engineered a plant that makes people happy. Against company policy, Alice sneaks one home to gift to her son Joe – however, Alice begins to suspect something is awry with the plant when her son begins acting strangely. Hausner takes an unorthodox but effective approach to science fiction with Little Joe, opting for a stylish pastel colour palette and a striking soundtrack of music.

Thu Apr 30 MISBEHAVIOUR (12A)*
2020 UK 106min Dir: Philippa Lowthorpe
Stars: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Keira Knightley, Keeley Hawes

The 1970 Miss World competition was the scene of cultural change in more than one way – while black contestants were at last treated as serious contenders for the title, a group of British feminists were determined to disrupt what they considered a demeaning, sexist spectacle. The fantastic cast form a winning ensemble in this highly enjoyable comedy-drama.
*The 2.30pm screening will be subtitled for those with hearing loss

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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