Dreams: The Pocket Essential Terry GilliamEdited by Phil Stubbs
This page of Dreams is dedicated to a new book about Terry Gilliam, in the Pocket Essential series of books which already has titles in its series dedicated to Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick and... erm... Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Featured on this page is a brief Dreams interview with writer John Ashbrook and a competition to win one of five copies of the new book.
John Ashbrook: A failed radio presenter and film director who scratches out a meagre living on the periphery of British media, sucking the life-force from the great and the good and the famous, then spitting it out onto the page in a reasonably coherent form! No, sorry, that's what I do - who I am is a person who learned to love movies at a very early age. I still vividly remember the image of Harryhausen's Cyclops from 'The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad', which lodged itself into my mind at the age of six, despite having only been seen on a black and white television set. It wasn't until many years later that I learned the name of the film, but the image of that monocular giant picking tiny people up and eating them, stayed with me. Although, I should point out, as a result of this, I do now demonstrate occasional cannibalistic tendencies.
About the same time, that would be nineteen seventy-mumble, I was taken to the cinema for the first time and sat in awe before a re-issue of Disney's 'Pinocchio'. The sequence with the whale remains one of Disney's most elegant and spectacular achievements. Both of these films taught me that there is no story so well told as one which expands the mind. No truth which is not easier to swallow if sweetened by a coating of imagination. To this day I tell very elaborate lies!
Where do you live?
Mostly on the motorway. If, during the long dark watches of the night, you briefly catch sight of a dishevelled Ford Escort tucked away in a lay-by somewhere, that'll be me, catching up on my beauty sleep before putting the pedal to the carpet once more.
Which is your favourite Gilliam film and why?
Ahh. Yes. Right. Well, 'Brazil' was my favourite Gilliam film for many years. I'm sure, from time to time, it even eclipsed 'Apocalypse Now' and 'Blade Runner' to become my favourite film of all. I was entranced by the magical complexity of the film's vision, and enjoyed the mental puzzle of unravelling its various layers of meaning. As the eighties wore on, and I became ever-more politically aware, I realised just how surgically precise 'Brazil's' satire is. But, as one ages, one looks for new stimuli and carries new emotional baggage. Because of its obvious similarities to 'Brazil' and its connection with 'Blade Runner', '12 Monkeys' drew my affection and admiration. I found myself unable to resist its bleak majesty. But then - as Britain limped, battered and bleeding into its seventeenth year of Thatcher's Reich, with a much-feared millennium beginning to show signs of appearing over the horizon - few of us were brave enough to look up from our shuffling feet and gaze down the gun-barrel of the all-too-possible future. The nineties was a bleak decade, and I think '12 Monkeys' captured that zeitgeist brilliantly. Chillingly. It is, to my mind, one of the great modern horror movies. But, just when you thought you were nearing the end of this answer ... I changed my mind again.
During the writing of my Gilliam book, my fickle affection wandered off in the direction of 'The Fisher King'. I find that I derive great faith from this film's optimistic message: No matter how bleak your life, no matter how cruel the world in which you suffer, redemption is still possible. You can still gain a modicum of peace, simply by forgiving yourself your sins. So, at the moment, I love 'The Fisher King' because of its message that hopelessness is irrelevant so long as morality exists. Well, that's how I read it, anyway. Ask me again tomorrow, I'll probably have a different lie ready for you then.
How easy or difficult was writing the book?
It was hell. I first looked at the 'serious' side of Gilliam films when I was allegedly 'studying' Media at college. Twelve years later, I was asked to write the Gilliam book, so dug out all my old work (which took me up to 'Munchausen') and began to look through it. I began to realise just how wrong I had been, how shallow my understanding, how weak my research. I determined to do it again, but do it properly this time. Of course, I reckoned without the simple fact that, since my degree course days, my brain has been converted to mush by a strict regimen of hard-drugs, soft women, cheap cigarettes and expensive booze. So, whilst my book most certainly is a procession of arrogant, self-serving pomposity, it does contain one or two good jokes. Hopefully, in amongst the mass of nonsense, I have managed to shed a little light on some of Gilliam's motifs and motives. Hopefully I have communicated my love of the films. Hopefully I have generated renewed enthusiasm in the mind of the reader. If anyone goes back to the films and watches them again with any amount of renewed understanding and enjoyment - I will have done my job.
Who should buy this book?
Which character in a TG film do you most identify with?
Lydia. Because I, too, am skinny and blonde and related to Christopher Plummer.
What is the answer to this question?