Educated at the Occidental College.
With two very costly box-office failures to his credit (Brazil and Munchausen), it remains to be seen how much license will be given to Gilliams unquestioned visual imagination. Those last two words might seem essential to moviemaking, yet there are times when this viewer would sooner settle for the visual simplicity of, say, Joseph Mankiewicz, Billy Wilder, Ozu, or even Hawks, than suffer the visual battering of Abel Gance, David Lean, Stanley Kubrick, or Terry Gilliam. There are times when “visual imagination” is a diversion from failures of content or sensibility.
Brazil is Orwellian—yet, isn’t it also art direction run amok at the expense of any scrutiny? Munchausen has far fewer defenders—it is a lavish, unholy bore of the spectacular. For, as Alexandre Astruc realized more than forty years ago, there is a tyranny in the visual if it is indulged for its own sake. Gilliam began as a contributor of effects, sequences, etc. for Monty Python, a TV show crammed with wordsmiths. This may have urged him deeper into visual excess. But, to these eyes, he has not yet appreciated the dramatic coherence necessary in film direction.
Gilliam was a cartoonist who met John Cleese (touring America) and became a part of the Monty Python Flying Circus team. He was also active on most of the Pvthon films, as animator, writer, and sometimes as actor. He was nominated for the best screenplay Oscar on Brazil, a film that he defended vigorously against understandable studio disquiet.
Married Margaret Weston.