Thursday, February 19, 2009

Day Fourteen: The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) - Rank 4.5/5


I love John Neville. Long before I was familiar with this film, I was a fan of his roles in film, such as Spider and The Fifth Element, as well as television (known well among sci-fi fans as The Well-Manicured Man in the X-Files series, though a whimsical cameo as Sir Issac Newton across the poker table from Data in the episode AAAAAGHHH Must suppress inner nerd. Will be difficult. Eric Idle is also in film. Ample opportunities for Monty Python references. Wait, Robin Williams! Okay, I'm good. Nothing much funny there...

Anyway, this film was made for the veteran actor. Neville shines as the eccentric Baron Munchausen, intrepid explorer, ladies man and purveyor of tall tales...or are they? The film could be perceived as nothing more than the imagination of a child as she's told a story (much like "The Fall," but far more realized). Then again, Baron Munchausen could really be a character capable of fantastic feats, shunned by a society that demands that everything be grounded in logic. To me, that was the aspect that impressed me the most about the film. It was a clever, social commentary on how we struggle to "create reality" that is anything but, in order for things to be more "logical." The film could easily have been about the wild misadventures of Baron Munchausen to the moon, Hades and beyond, but it raised the bar for itself and its audience, elevating it beyond the status of a good story to that of a fantastic one.

Writer/Director Terry Gilliam seldom disappoints when he has the freedom to finish a film as he deems fit. He creates elaborate, bizarre and beautiful worlds with characters to match and fills his scripts with great wit and social satire. I think he's one of the great, underrated auteurs of the past few decades. "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" serves as a reminder of this to me. While "Brazil" remains my long-time favorite production of his, I believe this is a close second. My simple reason being that it instills a belief within you after watching it that there is still some magic and fantasy left in the world. Sounds corny, I know, but accurate all the same.

Watch the Trailer

Oh, and on a minor note: if the underworld is really ruled by Oliver Reed and Uma Thurman, then I say: Let the sinning begin!

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