"The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" is the quintessential Terry Gilliam film and this release of it ( 20th anniversary edition ) exemplifies that perfectly. The first DVD is the film itself, digitally remastered to crisp, colour-saturated, audio-clear perfection. The second chronicles the entire production from initial ideas to release, with all of the sordid and wonderous details usually associated with the filming and production of one of Gilliam's films.
The story itself, adapted from the original book, is a fantasy but one that poses the question as to what is truly more valuable in life; imagination or reason. Nothing could be more appropos for, or truly representative of, Terry Gilliam than this very question. And of course, in the end, it is the imagination and it's far reacing synchronicties and limitlessness that wins the day.
A coherent story that soon opens itself up to work on many many layers develops and for a while seems like a series of shorter ones segue-ing into each other, blurs the boundaries between fantasy and "so called reality". The most moving aspect of which is the Baron's faith that all will be well in the end, despite the constant presence of Death itself, Armies of The Turk, hateful and blinkered magistrates and the dark side of reason ... DOUBT.
There are truly magical appearances throughout. Robin Williams puts in one of my favourite performances of all his work as Ray D. Tutto, a play on Rei de Tutto, or "The King of Everything". He is actually The King of the Moon but his head keeps spinning off in an attempt to split itself away from the body, which disgusts him with all it's physcial crudity and base desires. When Ray's head is attached he is a madly, wildly passionate whirlwind of lust and gluttony, when free of the body he is a quasi-pseudo mystic nutbar who believes the universe runs completely on his own thoughts. The truth and profundity behind William's insanely funny turn here is pure genius and contains much to think about and seriously consider. It's a tribute to both Williams and Gilliam in that this theme represents the best that both these mavericks embody.
Oliver Reed as the powerful and titanically crude Vulcan, married to the ethereal and refined Uma Thurman as Venus once more relays the dialectic of opposites. Vulcan creates Weapons of Mass Destruction for his human patrons and Venus rises out of a giant seashell, a la Botticelli, attended by flying putti, carrying the necessary classical ribbon with which to cover and adorn her. All is well between them until the Baron arrives. With his whimsy, imagination and charm he sweeps Venus, literally off her feet and up into the sky. While Vulcan tries to impress her with his enormous physical strength by crushing lumps of coal into diamonds, the Baron totally wins her with a release into a much more spacious and wonderous consciousness facilitated by an overriding joy of the miracle of being. Vulcan does NOT like this. Again, reason, a very jealous faculty, steps in and threatens destruction when it's limits are painfully revealed.
The stories go on and each of them are metaphors for the inner struggle of the imagination vs. reason. The Baron outwits the King of the Turks, who seeks to bind and destroy him with an impossible "contract", again a metaphor for reason. The entire scenario of the war that generates the whole narrative is the result of reason's ( The Turk ) outrage at being outwitted. Nothing as a theme could be more fitting to the mind and creativity of Terry Gilliam, himself an "incarnation" of Baron Munchausen in SO many ways.
A friend once said of Gilliam's films, "They're the best of what you go to the movies for - wonder, imagination, romance, humour and they take you somewhere OUT of your everyday world and show you something marvellous". I don't think it's ever been said better.
If you've never seen a Gilliam film, THIS is the one to go for. If you know his work, this release is a MUST. Indeed, it's "what you go to the movies for".