cover image Gilliam-esque: A Pre-posthumous Memoir

Gilliam-esque: A Pre-posthumous Memoir

Terry Gilliam. HarperCollins, $40 (304p) ISBN 978-0062380746

Gilliam, the former Monty Python animator and director of Time Bandits, Baron Munchausen, and other fantasias, describes a life spent confounding authority in this acerbic memoir. Gilliam's picaresque tale breezes from his Vietnam-era period as an underground cartoonist dodging service in the National Guard to the surreal silliness of the Monty Python comedy troupe. tHe cheerfully allows that his films were marked by his "amazing ability never to learn to do anything properly." Along the way, he defies hierarchs of all kinds: network censors, studio chiefs bent on re-cuts, and church officials enraged by the blasphemous gospel spoof Life of Brian. Baffled by thespians ("Where an actor has got upset... I just try to get in there and look understanding%E2%80%94as if I'm doing something to make it better when really I don't have a clue"), Gilliam is an art-director's director%E2%80%94his masterpiece Brazil may be cinema's greatest visual critique of the totalitarian state%E2%80%94and his accounts of integrating images, sets, d%C3%A9cor, costumes, and monster-models, illustrated with his own sketches and hand-drawn storyboards, are fascinating. Amid the gleeful potshots at dictators and divas ("How long it was since he had actually done anything great," he writes of a tantrum-throwing Hunter S. Thompson), Gilliam shows us how prosaic attention to craft can gel into art. Photos. (Oct.)