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TIDELAND And Gilliam Were In Brussels; Simon Says Was There!!

Merrick here...

Terry Gilliam was recently in Brussels for a presentation of his new film TIDELAND, based on Mitch Cullin’s startling book about a young girl grappling with (and escaping from) the realities of her parent's drug addictions. Gilliam took questions beforehand as well.

Simon Says was there, and sent in a detailed report about not only the Q&A, but his impressions of the film itself.

Here's Simon...

Anyone still interested in hearing about Terry Gilliam’s Tideland, or is it old news now?

IMDB says that it’s due for a limited released Stateside in August, but here in Brussels it’s out at the end of June, and last night there was a special preview screening at the Palais des Beaux Arts attended by Monsieur Gilliam himself.

The Film Museum in Brussels is also showing a complete Gilliam retrospective, and has given him carte blanche to show a selection of films of his choice (you can see his selection HERE.

Gilliam took to the stage before the screening to be interviewed for half an hour by local journalist, who was disappointingly lacking in charisma and spontaneity, and simply read from a list of questions. This may have been due to the fact that he wasn’t a native English speaker, although he sounded fairly fluent to me. I was also quite disappointed that there was no opportunity for questions from the audience, as I had a few lined up to ask.

Anywho, Gilliam was witty and interesting, even though some of what he said was repeated from earlier interviews I’d read on the excellent Dreams fansite. It also didn’t help that some of the questions were very standard ones like, "What attracted you to this project?", "What's it like working with X?".

Gilliam noted that the novel was originally sent to him some time ago and was simply dropped on top of his enormous pile of things people send him to read. It was only sometime later when he was frustrated with whatever he was working on at the time that he picked up the first thing on the pile, which was Mitch Cullin’s novel.

Asked why he worked with Tony Grisoni on the screenplay, Gilliam said, "He’s cheap". He said that he was intrigued by the idea of a film about children which shows them as tough, resilient and adaptable rather than fragile "victims". He said that he has three children of his own so he knows that when you drop them, they bounce rather than break. He liked the idea that the main character uses flights of fantasy to help her understand the world around her and adapt to its challenges, rather than as a crutch or an escape.

He said that this is his most "feminine" movie so far. "I finally got in touch with my inner child – and it’s a ten year old girl!" He also realised early on that women were responding to the script better than men, and that, rather than the usual men in suits behind big desks who finance movies, it was a pair of women who finally agreed to back it.

Both were Canadian, which led to many light-hearted jibes about being forced to work north of the border ("It’s a big country but there’s, like, two people living there." People recommended Dakota Fanning for the lead role, and he responded "I know, but we need a Canadian."

Six weeks before shooting was due to commence they still hadn’t found their actress, and he was considering pulling the plug. They had some good auditions, but Gilliam felt that they couldn’t project the necessary "scarred soul". He jokingly recommended that they scan local papers for girls who were the only survivors of horrific accidents. Finally they found Jodelle Ferland, and Gilliam was convinced that he’d discovered a major new talent, only to find that she’d been acting since the age of four and had some 25 screen credits.

Apart from that he said that everything fell into place more easily than anything else he’d worked on, and the shoot was very smooth. He said he thinks he’s gained in confidence as a director, and now leaves more space for the actors and fits the camerawork around them, rather than vice versa.

He warned us that the film tended to split audiences – there had been walkouts at many screenings, and his Python friend Michael Palin hated it, although he later admitted that he couldn’t get it out of his head, and that it was either Gilliam’s best or worst film – he couldn’t decide which. He assured us that some of us would hate it - "I’ll find you later!".

There was no news about forthcoming projects, apart from one passing reference to the fact that he’s still working on Good Omens.

So – what about the film itself? I won’t bother recapping the basic premise or plot – look on IMDB.

First, the bad - Personally I found Jodelle Ferland’s performance a little mannered, and I think it’s a shame that Gilliam didn’t manage to find someone less experienced who may have been a little more natural. On the other hand Gilliam said during the interview that he likes "big" performances. It’s also a touch too long, but not to the extent that you get bored. The penultimate scene throws a big twist at us which I’m not sure entirely works. It feels like a last ditch attempt to tie things together and impose a plot on a film which doesn’t really need it as it's more of a character/mood piece.

Finally one nitpick – personally I found the accents (somewhere in the south of the US – sorry, can’t identify more specifically) almost incomprehensible. I found myself relying heaving on the French subtitles when dialogue was too mumbled/drawled, which was quite often.

The good – Gilliam has succeded in his main aim – this is one of the best films yet on showing how children play, explore, their mood swings, and how they use their imaginations to interpret and deal with the world as they experience it. It’s very dark and potentially controversial – the main character is exposed to some disturbing situations (i. e. sex and death and drugs), but the point of the film is to show how she reacts to this stuff, so censoring it would defeat the object.

Some of these scenes are matter of fact, which makes them even more horrific, whereas some later scenes are more like a grotesque cartoon, prompting many "ewwww!!!!"s from the audience. Some feel that one of the relationships in the film borders on paedophilia, but to my mind both characters are essentially children, and those scenes are dealt with very sensitively and finally come across as quite sweet. It’s hard to describe – you’ll know when you see it.

Technical credits are strong – the film is as strikingly designed and shot as you’d expect from Gilliam, but I also thought that the music (by Jeff & Mychael Danna) was particularly effective and haunting.

It’s also one of the rare films which makes me want to go back and read the book.

I mean, once you've seen a Harry Potter movie there's not a great deal of point in reading the book as you know already what happens and they're mostly plot anyway, whereas I feel like I'd like to spend some more time in the world presented in Tideland, dark and disturbing as it is.

TIDELAND is currently being released gradually across the world. It should hit the United States sometime in late Summer/early Fall.

You can access the film's freaky-as-hell official website HERE.

Readers Talkback
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  • June 7, 2006, 10:59 p.m. CST


    by :-o


  • June 7, 2006, 11:12 p.m. CST

    Hah drugs....

    by Bean_

    I'm high right now! :D

  • June 7, 2006, 11:16 p.m. CST

    Interesting, hadn't really heard about it

    by chrth

    PS Harry Potter isn't about the plot. Definitely worth reading even if you've seen the movie(s).

  • June 7, 2006, 11:55 p.m. CST

    Quite the contrary

    by DrLektor

    I saw the Potter movies first and then read the books, being pleasantly surprised by how superior the printed version was. And the same goes for Tideland, outstanding piece pf work. It isn't often that a movie truly surpases the book, maybe a few film adaptations could be skipped. I'm interested to see this.

  • June 7, 2006, 11:58 p.m. CST


    by blackthought

    how i love should direct a goon flick for me one day...hmmm...movies.

  • June 8, 2006, 12:01 a.m. CST

    I like most of Terry Gilliam's movies,

    by Shaz_bot80

    With the exception of 'The Brothers Grimm", they are usually very good. I hope that this film turns out to be good. I'm also waiting for "The Defective Dectective." When, man WHEN will we see it!?

  • June 8, 2006, 12:19 a.m. CST

    A Gilliam move that's too long?

    by Phloton

    I'm a fan of most of Gilliam's work, but his films tend to be 20 to 30 minutes too long.

  • June 8, 2006, 1:11 a.m. CST

    Never met a Gilliam movie I didn

    by Veraxus

  • June 8, 2006, 1:12 a.m. CST

    Never met a Gilliam movie I didn't like......

    by Veraxus

    Goddamn ENTER key. Except for Brothers Grimm, which was complete and utter irredemable rubbish. I wish Tideland would work it's way to the land of the used to be free and the home of the used to be brave.

  • June 8, 2006, 1:18 a.m. CST

    On it's website there are some crazy clips

    by George Newman The navigation is a bit weird; to get to the clips, click on the doorway opening to the outside from the livingroom. then click on the overturned school bus. The swimming in the living room is wonderful. Gilliam's in my top 3 directors.

  • June 8, 2006, 1:19 a.m. CST

    Watched Brazil on sunday.

    by George Newman

    the criterion true version.

  • June 8, 2006, 1:59 a.m. CST

    Repeat Viewings

    by VanLingoMungo

    Gilliam is great, but I find myself liking his films less and less after each viewing. 12 Monkeys, Time Bandits, Munchausen...Each one seems to diminish in quality after each viewing...Except for Brazil. That movie is a goddamn masterpiece. They don't become horrible, they're just not the quality I thought they were. But he always wears really cool hats, and I respect that.

  • June 8, 2006, 2:48 a.m. CST

    cool hats

    by simonsays

    For the record, VanLingoMungo, he wore no hat that night. His shirt was pretty cool, though.

  • June 8, 2006, 3:07 a.m. CST

    Potter plot

    by simonsays

    chrth - Potter isn't about the plot? What - do you read it for its in-depth characterisation and psychological analysis? Potter is ALL plot, no subtext and no atmosphere, whereas Tideland (the movie at least, and I imagine the book is the same if Gilliam was as faithful as he wanted to be) is the exact opposite. This is why I'd be disappointed if the rumours about Gilliam directing Half-Blood Prince turned out to be true - there's nothing there for him to work with. It's the kind of franchise that swallows directors, like the Bond movies.

  • June 8, 2006, 3:30 a.m. CST

    Phoenix is a transition,

    by VanLingoMungo

    And not a major movement. I absolutely love the book (It's behind Prisoner as my fave), but it's a complete auto-pilot director's job. Gilliam would do wonders with Prince, with the darkness and set pieces. I imagine Harry and Dumbledore in the cave, Snape and the Death Eaters atop the tower, and the twin's Wizard Wheezes shop, and I dream about what Gilliam could do.

  • June 8, 2006, 4:04 a.m. CST

    simon, if you can't see the subtext&atmosphere in HP,

    by Colonel_Blimp

    (the books, mind you) you need to read them again. it's there allright, it's just that it's usually incorporated into the plot.

  • June 8, 2006, 4:13 a.m. CST

    Brothers Grimm

    by jasper Stillwell

    I even liked bits of Brothers Grimm, sorry...that stuff at the top of the tower was very well staged and in an weird kind of way I actually enjoyed Heath Ledger's oddball performance (Storemare could have been reined in a bit I reckon). Its a curate's egg, sure, but at least its interesting and has some memorable moments...I come out of most multiplex films thee days having forgotten them by the time I get down the stairs and the coffee's worn off. Would love to see Gilliam take on some scf-fi again. Stuff like: Next of Kin, Legwork, old stories, something like that...not 'great' sci-fi books but stuff with solid premises he could flesh out a bit and add to.

  • June 8, 2006, 4:42 a.m. CST

    Gilliam is...

    by Brendon

    ...the world's greatest film maker. Ever.

  • June 8, 2006, 4:48 a.m. CST

    One sentence paragraph alert!

    by VanLingoMungo

    Hi, my name is Brendon, and I make statements. That's right...Statements. I have no time for your silly conversations, I'm here to state facts. I shall tell you the truth,and you shall listen. Gilliam is the world's greatest film maker ever...Tuna is the new chicken...Hockey is dead...I have spoken...Deal with it.

  • June 8, 2006, 4:57 a.m. CST


    by simonsays

    I didn't mean this to turn into a "Potter is shit" review - I was hoping that it was more of a "Tideland is great" thing. I read all the Potter books and saw all the films, and enjoyed them - all I'm saying (and this is an OPINION, remember?) is that the Harry Potter stories don't have a great deal of re-readability for me. I resent the implication that I must be just too obtuse to grasp their profundity or appreciate Rowling's masterful literary technique. For me they're simple stories, well told. Nothing wrong with that, either, but I don't think I'd get anything more out of reading them again.

  • June 8, 2006, 6:10 a.m. CST

    The second rule of Talkback

    by chrth

    Mentioning another work (1st corollary: or a political opinion) in a review will always generate more posts about the other work than it will the original. .... Unfortunately, the human species seems utterly incapable of reviewing a movie without comparing it to something else. Maybe we should blame The Player?

  • June 8, 2006, 7:22 a.m. CST

    comparisions are odious

    by simonsays

    Good point chrth. "Go see Tideland - it's like Harry Potter, but without the plot or special effects..." Ummm...

  • June 8, 2006, 7:36 a.m. CST

    Tideland is like Watership Down without the rabbits.

    by Nice Marmot

    I never heard that Gilliam might do a Potter flick. I'm all for it. He would have PLENTY to work with & it would be fantastic. Sign him up for films 6 & 7.

  • June 8, 2006, 8:57 a.m. CST

    Aaaah - Gilliam is back!

    by Doctor_Sin

    And brought his tube of K-Y to all the better assrape us of our box office booty. You know, in a world where even this man's crap is better than most people's average stuff, news like this makes me happy.

  • June 8, 2006, 9:27 a.m. CST

    VanLingoMungo: erm, wasn't that 10 sentences?

    by brycemonkey

    Obviously not an English major... Anyway, Gilliam, Gilliam, Gilliam. A very talented filmmaker but has run into creativity problems of late (as a Director). Fear and Loathing was 8 years ago, the whole La Mancha SNAFU, and then the grim Brothers Grimm... He is talented, no question, but he needs Bill Gates or someone who is crazy rich to just let him go with it. Let him run riot and expenses be damned. Just my 2 cents. Peace.

  • June 8, 2006, 10:26 a.m. CST

    As I've always said, Brycemonkey...

    by JustinSane

    ...we AICN Gilliam fans should all just chip in twenty bucks and let Gilliam make whatever madness his heart desires... we won't interfere with his vision, will we?

  • June 8, 2006, 10:37 a.m. CST

    True dat Justin...

    by brycemonkey

    but what kinda flick is he going to make for $820? Bill Gates should just cut back a little on all that charity stuff. Do they ever present him with a post-apocalyptic, vision of a world gone mad with stunning visuals and a top notch cast? I didn't think so. :-P

  • June 8, 2006, 11:29 a.m. CST

    AICN snubbed me

    by IAmLegolas

    Many many months ago, when the TIDELAND trailer went live on the official website, nobody here seemed to care. I posted it in multiple talkbacks, I even emailed Harry and Co. privately. No response (except for some excited talkbackers) and no TB dedicated to it. So much for supporting the "little man". F*ck 'em. Go Terry!!!!

  • June 8, 2006, 11:55 a.m. CST

    I'll donate $20

    by the beef

    I guess he can put it towards a new hat. You know what? Here's a damn plan, why don't they start paying filmmakers with American tax dollars? Let the government become producers (albeit they will have to stay the fuck out of the way, which i guess they won't) and spend the money on making a movie, earn a shitload back and get us the hell out of our trillion dollar debt. I have no clue how the economy works, but that sounds like a pretty damn good idea to me. That way, at least even if they're making shitty big budget movies you know most of the country is going to see it because it's big budget. That way some good can come out of some of the shit stuff that is produced these days.

  • June 8, 2006, 12:23 p.m. CST

    Cool program by Gilliam

    by moviemaniac-7

    The man obviously has taste and a good sense of film's history. Terrific double bill of Le Jetee and his own Twelve Monkeys. Kudos. Can't wait to see this one, since I am a big fan of the man. Hell, I even liked Grimm Bros. quite a bit despite its flaws and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas might be one of the most underrated movies of the 1990s. Saw it again recently and it makes sense. It really does, but only if you realize that Terry Gilliam adapted a Hunter S. Thompson (terrific cameo, btw) novel. Perfect as it can be.

  • June 8, 2006, 12:46 p.m. CST

    lol the beef...

    by brycemonkey

    "I have no clue how the economy works". I don't really need to add to that do I? JK ;-) It's an interesting premise though. America invades oil producing countries, so the government can secure funding for the next Michael Bay project. I like it! Who's producing it? Al Gore!

  • June 8, 2006, 12:50 p.m. CST

    that Carte Blanche Gilliam Filmfest looks bitchin'

    by tripp5

    gotta love a guy that'll play ya some Bu

  • June 8, 2006, 1:13 p.m. CST

    sounds like it keeps the book's ending...

    by beamish13

    which is a mistake, as it's very unexpectedly sentimental. I'm still very, very much looking forward to this, though...

  • June 8, 2006, 2:47 p.m. CST

    Good Omens

    by gavdiggity

    The thought of Gilliam, one of my favorite filmmakers, doing a big-screen adaptation of one of my favorite books is enough to set the loins a-quiverin'. Of course, it could be years before this thing gets done. But as long as Eddie Izzard makes the cast, I'll be fine wif it...

  • June 8, 2006, 3:56 p.m. CST


    by the beef

    No you definitely don't need to add anything to that, i seriously have no clue on how the economy works and so i don't want to act as if i do. It just seems pretty logical for the government to spend money on something where they can make a profit. I mean, everybody wins. They take our tax dollars, put it towards entertainment for us, we spend more money on something paid for with our own tax dollars, and everyone is happy. For some reason i'm starting to get reminded of some twisted version of WAG THE DOG. I'll bet David Mamet could get this story to work. Maybe even Mel Brooks (THE PRODUCERS).

  • June 8, 2006, 4:01 p.m. CST

    i thought the second rule of talkback

    by Holodigm

    was that you DO NOT talk about talkback

  • June 8, 2006, 4:11 p.m. CST

    sorry the beef...

    by brycemonkey

    Don't want to ruin your nearly perfect idea for a utopian society... BUT... hardly any movies make money. So what would happen if your movie based state had a bad run of Showgirls and Slivers? I think your government has a big enough deficit without taking a major gamble becoming a producer (esp. If you are from the US or UK) ;-P

  • June 8, 2006, 4:39 p.m. CST

    another GILLIAM film

    by frank cotton

    can't ever get enough of his work. if anyone deserves to be reincarnated, it's him. BRAZIL is my favorite film of all time, nothing has ever even come close to knocking it off the #1 spot. planning on picking up the BROTHERS GRIMM DVD tonite - can't believe it doesn't have some redeeming features; the trailer makes it look good, at any rate. loved his film choices - can't go wrong with VIDEODROME (another on my top ten list).

  • June 8, 2006, 4:50 p.m. CST

    Don't do it Frank!!

    by Blue_Demon

    Rewatch BRAZIL or 12 MONKEYS or anything else! I'm doing you a favor bud! My obligations fulfilled, I can now state that I REALLY want to see TIDELAND. The trailer looks freaky.

  • June 8, 2006, 5:02 p.m. CST

    It doesn't matter brycemonkey

    by the beef

    They currently spend millions of dollars on things that make absolutely no profit whatsoever and really serve no general purpose, it's just wasted money. Well, why not use that money to put towards something where you can make some of it back and quite possibly make more from it? It is a gamble but look at the upside, how many big budget films actually lose money, even the really stupid ones? It seems that the odds have to be in their favor.

  • June 8, 2006, 5:20 p.m. CST

    You've convinced me!

    by brycemonkey

    So what shall we divert money from first? Police, sanitation, education, hospitals,...? JK. Peace. I'm outta here. Laters.

  • June 8, 2006, 6:36 p.m. CST

    Trailer is great!

    by Neo Zeed

    Can't wait!

  • June 9, 2006, 2:40 a.m. CST

    "post-apocalyptic, vision of a world gone mad..."

    by simonsays

    "...with stunning visuals and a top notch cast". Er, that would be 12 Monkeys you're talking about, right?

  • June 9, 2006, 8:37 a.m. CST

    I think Brazil would also fit the description...

    by brycemonkey

    welcome to Gilliam World ;-)

  • June 9, 2006, 11:45 a.m. CST

    oh gilliam...hope your next flick isn't too far off

    by blackthought

  • June 9, 2006, 1:01 p.m. CST

    Yay, i'm glad this is finaly getting released!

    by pokadoo

    Can't wait!!!

  • June 9, 2006, 5:04 p.m. CST

    Ask Gilliam a Question here....

    by phildreams

    If you click on the Gilliam fansite mentioned/linked in the main article, you can ask Terry Gilliam a question. A hefty selection of these will be answered by Gilliam in July.

  • June 9, 2006, 6:05 p.m. CST

    what to ask

    by blackthought

  • June 10, 2006, 8 a.m. CST

    God Bless Gilliam!

    by Evil Chicken

    This can't happen soon enough.

  • June 10, 2006, 2:42 p.m. CST

    for god's sake GRIMM isn't THAT bad...

    by beamish13

    yes, it was made for the Weinsteins so it was doomed from the start, but the performances are a cut-above (especially Pryce, very much in MUNCHAUSEN mode). That "gingerbread house of doom" line made my girlfriend and I crack up the theatre.

  • June 11, 2006, 11:57 a.m. CST

    i don't get it

    by frank cotton

    OK, so i've watched THE BROTHERS GRIMM twice now, and i fail to see what's so wrong with it; BEAMISH is right - the performances were great - the walking trees looked good, the bitch cracking with the mirror was killer, what did i miss? i'm not saying it'll knock BRAZIL off of the top spot for me, but i loved it. the part with the girl at the well sold me, if nothing else - that was just too cool. i can't understand the negative reviews, and they were everywhere.