Gilliamesque

Book Review

Gilliamesque   by Terry Gilliam

This is an intriguing auto-biography by the only non-English member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Terry Gilliam started out as a cartoonist in the US. He was involved in political activism in the States at a time when the Vietnam war was developing. It was there that he first met John Cleese who was performing for the summer in New York. Their meeting was a portent for all that followed when Gilliam eventually fled the US to set up home in England.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus was synonymous with wacky off-the-wall humour in both sketches and illustrations. The drawings were the work of Terry Gilliam who demonstrated an unusual talent for metaphorical imagery.

In his auto-biography, Gilliam takes us through the lesser known aspects of his life, as well as expanding upon those parts that we are more familiar with. As well as being a Python, Gilliam carved out a career as a renowned film director, with such notable movies as Brazil, The Fisher King and Twelve Monkeys to his credit.

His book, Gilliamesque, is littered with illustrations that have never before been made public, as well as containing snapshots from his personal life. His writing is a tad jerky, at times, but all-in-all I found it to be incredibly informative.

He recounts stories about such notable characters as Marlon Brando, Brad Pitt and Robert de Niro. We get little tidbits of information that provide insight into the personalities involved. In some instances, Gilliam is critical of certain stars, but not in a blatant way. His methods are subtle but telling.

I was disappointed that he didn’t enter into more detail about the making of the Life of Brian, a favourite of Rebel Voice, however it is true that there are so many stories that could be recounted, and there is so much ground to cover, that Gilliam could be forgiven for not entering into great detail in every case. It was interesting to learn that it was George Harrison of The Beatles who funded the making of the Life of Brian, using his manor house as collateral to do so.

Also of interest was Gilliam’s revelation that the man who was responsible for producing some of his movies, Arnon Milchan, was – unknown to Gilliam – an Israeli Mossad agent (see future Rebel Voice article for more on this). When Brando rather callously stated that the Jews controlled Hollywood, he was grossly inaccurate. It is, instead, Zionists who apparently control Hollywood and use it playfully as a centre for Israeli propaganda.

Terry Gilliam’s book gives us an honest portrayal of someone who has been at the centre of the global entertainment industry for decades. He is often harsh on himself. He criticizes himself continually but does not engage in false modesty. Gilliam knows the impact he has made on movie making, but accepts that not every venture was a success. He is graceful in his failures.

By the time I finished reading Gilliamesque, I cannot admit to having developed a fondness for Terry Gilliam. Perhaps that is because he was overly sore upon himself. He has successfully maintained a long term marriage in an arena where such is a novelty. He appears to have a tight and supportive family unit. These are admirable achievements. In addition, he shows as someone who has never lost his understanding of the absurdity of the human world in which we live. Great respect should be given to someone who, at the end of the day, does not take himself too seriously whilst still successfully undertaking large artistic projects.

For anyone who is a fan of Monty Python, or who is simply curious, then this is the book for you. For anyone who is a fan of cartoons and illustrations, then this is the book for you. For movie buffs and those with more than a passing interest in the elite of Hollywood, this is the book for you. For those who enjoy a good story, especially one about a man who is wacky and interesting and notable, then this is the book for you.

For any one who does not fall into the above categories, I must ask, what the hell does interest you? Bar graphs? Pie charts? Catalogues about brown shoelaces? Flock wall paper? Fuck off!

Read this book, folks, and be amazed.

Sult scale rating: 7.5 out of 10. Recommended for many reasons, but mainly because Terry Gilliam contributed greatly to the Life of Brian and directed the Holy Grail.