Richard’s Year of Movies — The Fisher King

There aren’t too many directors who can claim a run like Terry Gilliam had in the 80s and 90s —  Time Bandits, Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Fisher King, 12 Monkeys, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  Not a bad film in that bunch, and at least two bona fide classics.  And while after that he seems to have gone off the rails somewhat (although I hear The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus is a return to form, but I wouldn’t know because no theater in Orlando could be bothered to run it), it’s hard to argue with the sheer amount of visual creativity on display in those films.

No, I didn’t watch all of those today.  I watched The Fisher King, which I hadn’t seen in forever.  So when I saw it while flipping through the Netflix queue on Xbox Live, I jumped on it.

What’s so striking about this film is that, at it’s heart, it’s a sweet romance about broken people learning to trust and love again.  It’s quite a switch for a Gilliam film.  But since it is a Gilliam film, there’s the Holy Grail and an angry red knight on horseback and commuters in Grand Central spontaneously breaking into a waltz.

The three films before Fisher King were a loose trilogy about the power of imagination in youth, adulthood and old age.  And in a way, this film continues that theme, since it’s the story of the Grail that eventually brings Robin Williams’ character back to sanity.  Believing in that story — and Jeff Bridges eventually accepting it — is what eventually leads everyone to a good place in their lives.  It’s telling that the last shot in the film is Bridges joining Williams in a naked romp through Central Park, one he had refused earlier — by freeing Williams from his mental prison, Bridges has been freed from his own, and did so by embracing a little bit of Williams’ madness.  Gilliam tells us that the occasional flight of fancy is good for the soul, and that a touch of wonder in our lives can do us a world of good.

Not bad for a guy who used to play the organ in the nude on Monty Python.


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