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The Holy Grail of Film Series: Terry Gilliam classics at FilmScene


Terry Gilliam
FilmScene will screen Time Bandits on Saturday, Oct. 24 at 10 a.m.

One of FilmScene’s coolest series yet (and that’s saying something) kicked off this month with a back-to-back screening of master filmmaker Terry Gilliam’s classic, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The series will culminate on Oct. 23, when Gilliam gives a free lecture in the IMU Ballroom at 7:30 p.m. In the meantime, Iowa City’s beloved indie cinema will screen some of Gilliam’s best and most beloved films each weekend. Here’s your guide:

1. Brazil

Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 10 & 11 at 1 p.m.

Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce), a day-dreaming bureaucrat, becomes an enemy of the state after investigating an innocent man’s wrongful arrest and accidental death. Robert De Niro plays a rogue air conditioning specialist/bad guy; Kim Griest plays the woman of Lowry’s dreams. Set in a future with a decidedly retro aesthetic. Directed by Terry Gilliam, Screenplay by Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard and Charles McKeown (1985).

Also Starring: Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins, Katherine Helmond

Choice Quotes: “Care for a little necrophilia? Hmm?” / “This is your receipt for your husband…and this is my receipt for your receipt.” / “Don’t fight it, son—confess quickly! If you hold out too long you could jeopardize your credit rating!”

Go See If: You love Orwell’s 1984 as much as you dig The Three Stooges. You are “still trying to find a job for which a simple machine isn’t better suited.”* The totally dysfunctional, bureaucratic industrial world has been driving you crazy for some time.

2. The Fisher King

Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 17 & 18 at 1 p.m.

Howard Stern-ish DJ Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) hits the bottle after accidentally taking an unstable caller into committing mass murder. On his way to rock bottom, he meets Parry (Robin Williams), a homeless man who lost his wife in the very shooting Lucas instigated. Together, they search for the Holy Grail —- something of a theme in Gilliam’s work. Directed by Terry Gilliam, Screenplay by Richard LaGravenese (1991).

Also Starring: Mercedes Ruehl, Amanda Plummer

Choice Quotes: “It’s important to think. It’s what separates us from lentils.” / “There’s three things in this world that you need: Respect for all kinds of life, a nice bowel movement on a regular basis and a navy blazer.” / “I don’t mean to be flippant or to enrage you or anything, but you’re a psychotic man.”

Go See If: Your shame and regrets visit you in anthropomorphized form. Elaborate song and dance numbers seem like viable treatment options for severe depression. You are not of the opinion that love conquers all, but you appreciate its capacity to highlight dramatic irony.

3. 12 Monkeys

Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 24 & 25 at 1 p.m.

In 2027, prisoner James Cole (Bruce Willis) is recruited for an information-gathering mission. His task? Stop a plague that will wipe out most of the world’s population. The catch? He has to time travel back to the 1990s to do so. Brad Pitt plays a manic sidekick. Directed by Terry Gilliam, Screenplay by Janet and David Peoples (1995).

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Also Starring: Madeleine Stowe, Christopher Plummer, David Morse

Choice Quotes: “There’s no right, there’s no wrong, there’s only popular opinion.” / “Do you realize where he thinks he comes from?”

Go See If: You like picking holes in time travel plots. You regularly question your own sanity, and the sanity of those around you. You would enjoy seeing Brad Pitt slap himself.

4. Time Bandits

Saturday, Oct. 24 at 10 a.m.

Well before Amber Alerts were a thing, six dwarves walk out of a nerdy little boy’s closet and abscond with him through various holes in the fabric of time on an epic and unsettling treasure hunt. Meanwhile, the Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson) follows in hot pursuit. Robin Hood (John Cleese), King Agamemnon (Sean Connery) and Napoleon Bonaparte (Ian Holm) make guest appearances. Directed by Terry Gilliam, Screenplay by Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin (1981).

Also Starring: Craig Warnock, Shelley Duvall, Michael Palin, Katherine Helmond,

Choice Quotes: “Dead? No excuse for laying off work.” / “Look how [God] spends his time! Forty-three species of parrots! Nipples for men!” / “I should do something very extroverted and vengeful to you. Honestly? I’m too tired.”

Go See If: You like ignoring holes in time travel plots. You find the awkward order of modern society crazy-making, and would like to escape by any means possible.

5. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Saturday, Oct. 17 at 11 p.m.

In Terry Gilliam’s adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s psychotic gonzo hunt for the American Dream, Hunter’s alter-ego Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) drives blatantly phallic cars across the Mojave Desert with a suitcase full of drugs and his attorney, Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro). Ostensibly on assignment to write a feature story on a motorcycle race, the cynical duo embark on a superhuman drug binge. Directed by Terry Gilliam, Screenplay by Terry Gilliam, Alex Cox, Tony Grisoni and Tod Davies (1998).

Also Starring: Tobey Maguire, Ellen Barkin, Christina Ricci, Gary Busey, Cameron Diaz, Christopher Meloni, Mark Harmon

Choice Quotes: “We can’t stop here—this is bat country.” / “With a bit of luck, his life was ruined forever.” / “The lobby fairly reeked of high-grade formica and plastic palm trees.”

Go See If: You want to see Johnny Depp play Jack Sparrow with less rum and more acid. You’re working on your road trip Pinterest Board, and need a little inspo. You #FeelTheBern, but also, maybe, #StandWithRand.

*C.D. Wright, “Personals,” Steal Away: Selected and New Poems (2002), Copper Canyon Press

Gemma de Choisy is working on a book about religion and reality TV, which play by a lot of the same rules, if you think about it. This article originally appeared in Little Village issue 185.


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