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Harry gets blown away by Terry Gilliam's TIDELAND @ Fantastic Fest!!!

Every now and again at a festival you see a film that has a bad reputation – where you come out understanding the reputation, but TOTALLY DISAGREEING WITH IT. Where it so flipped in your mind what you thought going in… that you’ve just got to walk away from the festival and get to a quiet place – where the chatter and talk of a thousand excited film fans fades – and you’re left with your own internal monologue to explore at a keyboard. Tonight, that took place at FANTASTIC FEST – and the film that absolutely blew my mind was TIDELAND from Terry Gilliam. TIDELAND, for me, is a masterpiece. A children’s fairy tale version of THE FISHER KING. It is the world as seen through the eyes and experiences of an astonishingly talented and amazing young actress named Jodelle Ferland. You got a glimpse of her in SILENT HILL, but this was the film she made just prior to that at around the age of 10. She is astonishing… as is the world that she makes for herself after both of her aging musician drug addict parents OD – leaving her at an abandoned rundown house in the middle of nowhere, that was once owned by her Grandmother… where all she has to keep herself company are some doll heads and a precocious squirrel… till the lobotomized epileptic shows up and the one eyed ex-girlfriend of her father, who is an amateur taxidermist. Her father, played by Jeff Bridges is genius as the living father, then as a corpse he’s amazing – and then… no, you shouldn’t have it spoilt. It’s just unbelievable. This feels like Gilliam untethered and unleashed. There’s scenes that you must endure, not because they’re clumsily written or acted or staged, but because we as an audience are not as innocent as a 10 year old girl or a lobotomized simpleton. There’s whole sequences of the film where Jodelle’s Jeliza-Rose is wandering the rolling fields of grain with these two doll heads on her fingertips – and all three of them talking to one another. Finding magical fairy lightning bug homes made from the burnt out remains of a school bus that some years before claimed the lives of many when it collided with a train. The poster features an upside down tree – while not exactly an image from the film, the iconography is exactly reflected in the mentality of the fantasy at play here. It’s topsy turvy. It’s a little girl that can’t and won’t face reality, if she ever knew what reality was. Her two parents – Jeff Bridges and Jennifer Tilly have seemingly used her to prepare their fixes and cater to their disintegrating decaying existences – filling her mind with the stoned rantings of drug addled minds. The scene where Jeliza is preparing a hypo with smack… it’s astonishing because it’s so matter of fact, it’s almost cute… like how in an older film that was being edgy, it’d feature a child mixing a cocktail for mom or dad, here… it’s quite a bit more, yet all the same in tone. Horrifying, yet home-y. Why is the film being waylaid by a vocal unit? It isn’t for wide audiences. It isn’t watered down. This is Gilliam in STUNNING form. This isn’t churned out of a machine, it’s got blood, sweat and tears in it. The imagery is shocking, in your face and absolutely captivating. However, this isn’t a directly logical tale – it’s poetry, art -- One filmmaker that was present saw the film as a metaphor for becoming a woman, leaving the protective parental nest and empowering yourself through sexuality. OK – or it could be a tale about a 10 year old coping with having nobody to care for her, going into denial, creating her own death mythology and trying to survive without facing or encountering reality. I was so incredibly blown away by this film. It’s the sort of film that’s images, subject matter and content can either repulse or captivate. Yoko completely did not care for it. Others “need to see it again” before deciding what they think. Then there are those like me that just absolutely had their minds blown. It plays again tomorrow – seek it out – the film is an experience, something that very few films actually offer these days. It’s a film that challenges you, offends you and shakes up your perception of the world. And if you happen to know a little girl that ripped the heads off their Barbies – or if you were that girl – there’s a strong chance that this film will be a religious experience for you. If you kept your Barbies intact… maybe not so much.

Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 22, 2006, 11:17 p.m. CST

    Harry, you are apparently blown away very easily...

    by Bob Cryptonight

    And everything is a masterpiece. Sheesh!

  • Sept. 22, 2006, 11:22 p.m. CST


    by damagedinc

    i'm just tryin

  • Sept. 22, 2006, 11:24 p.m. CST

    Pan's Labyrinth 2: Electric Boogaloo

    by BeeDub

    Don't tell me I'm the only one who's thought that.

  • Sept. 23, 2006, 12:44 a.m. CST

    Don't know about the movie...

    by boingo2000

    Gilliam's great and all, but I read the book and it sucked. Please, Gods of Cinema, tell me this film ends (unlike the book, which just... stopped).

  • Sept. 23, 2006, 12:50 a.m. CST

    Sure, Harry's hyperbolic, but...

    by rbatty024

    that's part of the homespun charm of Ain't it Cool News. Everyone here's more of a fan than a critic. It means their opinions are worth a grain of salt, but it also means when you read their stuff you remember how great movies can be. I'm looking forward to Gilliam's latest.

  • Sept. 23, 2006, 1:10 a.m. CST

    I haven't read the reveiw but...

    by ScarranHalfBreed

    ...does he like it? DOES HE???? WELL, DOES HEEE??????

  • Sept. 23, 2006, 2:20 a.m. CST

    I didn't read past masterpiece

    by Merkin Muffley

    because I don't wanna no spoilers. But PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE Tideland, be good. Gilliam, I've had to stop telling people you're my favorite director for some time now, but I'm more than willing to get back on the bandwagon, you brilliant, frustrating, mad fucker!

  • Sept. 23, 2006, 2:37 a.m. CST

    Saw it tonight ... FUCKING LOVED IT!!!!!!!

    by Rearden

    The scenes between Rose and the mentaly handicapped Dickens will completely FLOOR YOU! Not b/c they're ugly or hard to watch, but b/c they are so stunningly executed and completely sincere that they will stay with you forever. A truly beautiful film. (if I sent in a review, I wonder if they would post it here ... I don't want to be one of those jerks who posts a whole review in the talkbacks) SEE TIDELAND. It is bliss.

  • Sept. 23, 2006, 7:22 a.m. CST

    i disagee with you harry

    by Sam Raimi's Car

    loving tideland and hating american psycho. sigh. i don't think we should see each other anymore. our differences are just too great...

  • Sept. 23, 2006, 7:31 a.m. CST

    saw this some months ago

    by Windowlicker74

    I read the book first, but, as the above poster said, it sucks, then I went to see the movie( big Gilliam fan here): great imagery, mildly shocking( thats good), but the scenes with Dickens just kept on going to the point that it became boring ;; unbelievable but true...I thought I was watching a 3 hour movie.. then I went to see the Bukowski movie Factotum with Dillon and that movie was just awesome..( this was all in the beginning of the summer, when do these movies come out in the US?)

  • Sept. 23, 2006, 7:40 a.m. CST

    great film

    by Jarek

    Saw this a couple of weeks ago and I too was blown away. It's VERY dark and probably the best Gilliam work since Brazil. I'm amazed they could get a child actor to do some of these scenes... moreso because her performance leads you to believe that she understands it.

  • Sept. 23, 2006, 9:14 a.m. CST

    Masterfully acted and directed.

    by geekzapoppin

    But I don't *ever* want to see it again. It's one of the most disturbing films I've seen in a long time. Is it good? Yes. It's the best film that Gilliam has made in a long time. However, it's profoundly painful to watch. I kept wanting to reach into the screen and take that little girl out of the hell she's living in. (No pedophile jokes...) Fans of Gilliam's work should definitely give it a shot, but be prepared for an uncomfortable journey.

  • Sept. 23, 2006, 9:25 a.m. CST


    by godoffireinhell

    Gilliam's best since 12 MONKEYS.

  • Sept. 23, 2006, 10:27 a.m. CST

    Holy crap, what exactly happens to the girl?

    by Nice Marmot

    I've been waiting for this just because it's Gilliam but never bothered to learn the premise. Now I'm getting a bad sick vibe from the posts I'm reading. What happens to the girl in this thing???

  • Sept. 23, 2006, 11:46 a.m. CST

    Nice Marmot..basically

    by Avon

    It's more the stuff she see's and has to do. She helps her parents inject drugs, her sick bitch mum OD's, her Dad od's (and later gets stuff like an animal)... some freaky shit. And basically everyone around her is fucked up, leading you to believe she'll either live out her days as a twisted/sick individual or find salvation. Basically everyone barring one person around her is still alive by the end.

  • Sept. 23, 2006, 11:54 a.m. CST

    Not an entertaining film but a good one

    by CommanderSpike

    Saw this in Manchester (UK) with Gilliam in attendance...he said the film divided audiences. I found the film to be very uncomfortable viewing, and although it was an unpleasent experience it gets you thinking. Gilliam is pushing the boundaries with this one...playing with how much the audience can stomach. I'd rather see a brave but flawed film like this than a safely softly hollywood film any day.

  • Sept. 23, 2006, 4:18 p.m. CST

    Great Movie

    by BeatsMe

    Definitely his best since Brazil. It is hard to take, and the ending sort of drops the ball, but overall it hangs together as an amazing portrait of a kid coping with loneliness and abuse.

  • Sept. 23, 2006, 4:19 p.m. CST

    What happens to the girl ...

    by godoffireinhell

    She gets to make out with the retard. It's an innocent scene, it's the viewers minds that are dirty...

  • Sept. 23, 2006, 6:33 p.m. CST


    by Lil LoLo

    will this be released for me to see?

  • Sept. 23, 2006, 6:42 p.m. CST


    by Veraxus

    Even in limited release, there's usually somewhere around here in SoCal that'll play it. I've been waiting for this movie for YEARS and I am really, truely getting tired of waiting. Also, I've tried to shelter myself completely from what happens in the movie - so fuck you, Harry for blowing the father dies bit without a hint of spoiler warning.

  • Sept. 23, 2006, 8:36 p.m. CST

    Remember when Harry was blown...

    by cornstalkwalker

    by that dude in drag. Oh wait, I'm not supposed to talk about that. Just ignore this post.

  • Sept. 23, 2006, 8:40 p.m. CST

    Gilliam=Genius but obsessed w/ the Fisher King!

    by msspurlock

    Not that it's a problem. I'm a big fan of the Grail legends. It's just that there are two themes that run through all of his post-Time Bandits films: dystopia and a wounded king figure. Doesn't matter. I'll see it, and eventually own it, of course.

  • Sept. 24, 2006, 5:56 a.m. CST

    This film has been and gone in the UK and Ireland

    by emeraldboy

    where it was torched and roasted byt the critics who saw it. In ireland it was dumped in the IFI where it ran for a week. I saw Gilliams last film the one he made with the Weinsteins. Which was mediocre in the extreme despite some flashes of gilliam brilliance namel the scene with the horse and the man eating trees. Studios have lost intrest with gilliam and despite his don quixote doc. I dont think we will ever see Gilliam at his visual best ever again. Shame really.

  • Sept. 24, 2006, 9:47 a.m. CST

    Yeah it was in & out of the UK before in a flash

    by pokadoo

    I missed it and had to Torrent it :( But it was from a Russian DVD. It must be available there, because it was perfect quality. It was pretty disturbing, not an easy film to watch, but I did really like it! It was a triumphant return for Gillium, after The Brothers Grimm (which is not terrible, just an "entertaining mess"). It looked beautiful, and that girl was amazing, for a child actor. I'm curious to see Pans Labyrinth (which is a newer film than Tideland,'BeeDub') when it comes out, to see how they compare.

  • Sept. 24, 2006, 2:57 p.m. CST

    Hey, what's wrong with Monster House and Roll Bounce?

    by Lenny Nero

    (message goes here)

  • Sept. 25, 2006, 3:24 p.m. CST


    by emeraldboy

    is one of the best animated films i have seen this year. The screenplay was great. The animation was a vast improvement on the polar express. I loved the actually story surrounding the house, I thought it was very touching. Man Resuces wife from freak show. builds her a house. Wife dies. Man buries wife in the basement but wife isnt dead and takes over the house every year at halloween. Chowder was one of the best wrtten characters in a toon in years. This was one of the smartest darkest animated films in along time. I loved the little moments with the moving blades of grass. The two cops were hilarious. This is the first animated film in which the teens get intelligent girlfriends. Bone was also an excellent character and i dont seem to remember making out scenes with the baby sitter in any other animated film recently. Gil Kenan is one to watch.

  • Sept. 26, 2006, 4:01 p.m. CST

    It's been my experience that when Harry is blown away

    by NapoleonDynamite

    by something and everyone says it sucks, everyone else always turns out to be right. Remember Episode 2? Remember Captain Sky Pilot's World of Tomorrow or whatever the fuck it was called? I wish I could trust you, Harry, but you're way too easily impressed these days.

  • Sept. 26, 2006, 6:11 p.m. CST

    Folks, this film is APPALLING (and I love Gilliam)

    by zoothorn21

    Don't often write, but I am utterly mystified by the review and some of the comments here. The people who are saying that this is Gilliam's best work since Brazil genuinely need to go back and look at his other work. Brothers Grimm is undoubtedly his weakest work, but Tideland runs it a very close second. The film feels endless, principally because after a manic first 15 minutes, the entire thing grinds to a halt for nearly 2 hours. I can handle plotless films no problem but Tideland is utterly directionless. The film is shockingly photographed - all dutched angles with no connecting thread between them - it looks like Battlefield Earth and will make you long for the days of Roger Pratt's considered and stately cinematography. However the biggest problem is the total lack of focus in terms of how we are supposed to be viewing the film - Gilliam has said that the film needs to be seen through a child's eyes, but that's ignored from the start (SPOILER - we know her dad is dead but she doesn't - END SPOILER) because the film is clearly shot through an adult filter - we DON'T just see what Jeliza Rose sees, we know far more, which makes some scenes, which some have called 'daring', simply distasteful and silly. Gilliam is way, way off course - this looks thrown together and cuts far too corners in terms of narrative and drive. I left the cinema thoroughly miserable - the U.K. critics were right to slate this - Gilliam can do so, so much better.

  • Sept. 26, 2006, 9:17 p.m. CST

    Terry Gilliam

    by OhDaesu

    Terry Gilliam is the most misunderstood filmmaker of our time. People seem to forget the classics he's made. Fear and Loathing, 12 Monkeys and Brazil alone are landmark films. Tim Burton wishes he had an ounce of Terry Gilliam's directorial talent. That being said I feel that Tideland is one of his best films. This film could have suffered at the hands of the wrong director but Terry really knows what he's doing. Watching the film is like stepping into a dream/nightmare.

  • Sept. 27, 2006, 7:48 p.m. CST

    God, please let this be good...

    by Jellyfishing

    We need more good Gilliam!!!!

  • Sept. 28, 2006, 5:42 p.m. CST

    Drug Addled Weirdness

    by robotfist42

    I love odd drug movies. Fear and Loathing was fantastic. Check out the local news as seen through the eyes of a PCP addict...

  • Sept. 29, 2006, 2:42 p.m. CST

    Harry, can you intro me to your dealer?

    by artsnob

    I don't do anything stronger than weed as a rule, but if there's a drug that will make me see TIDELAND as a good movie, I've just GOT to try it! (And YES, I've seen it ... at the 2005 Toronto Film Fest, where it went over like a lead brick.)

  • Sept. 29, 2006, 7:51 p.m. CST

    Toronto & Gunning For Gilliam

    by Filmskinboots

    Yeah, artsnob, I was at Toronto too, and the response to Tideland was unkind almost even before the first frame was shown. I was at one of the press screenings, but I actually thought the film was really interesting and didn't deserve most of the backlash it was getting. That experience in Toronto also left me with this weird feeling that maybe there should be some unspoken ethics to reviewing know, like maybe reviewers should be required to sit through a film before reviewing it. At the Toronto press screening, the walkouts were in droves. Within the first 20 to 30 mins. of the film, "respectable" journalists from the trades had abandoned their seats, and then they went on to damn the film in print without having watched most of it. This fostered bad bad word of mouth that was then picked up by film "reviewers" elsewhere who had yet to see the film, and who probably still haven't seen it. One of the film critics for the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram trashed the film based solely on the word of mouth, and Ain't-It-Cool-Wanna-be sites like the lame Cinema Blend have panned it based on everything except a personal viewing. It also strikes me as weird that the focus has been entirely on the poor reviews instead of the variety of really positive, insightful critiques that have come from a variety of legit sources. I mean, christ, the film went on to win the Fipresci Prize from international critics in Spain right after being damned in Toronto, but you're not going to find anyone bringing that up online. At least you sat through it, artsnob, and so did I. I admit I wasn't as blown away by the film as Harry was, but I found it to be really interesting. It felt more like vintage Gillam to me than anything the man has done in the past twenty years.

  • Oct. 1, 2006, 7:20 p.m. CST

    Harry Gets Blown Too Easily.

    by HaveCameraWillTravel

    He is always finding a "masterpiece" in a bad movie or "getting blown away" by brainless drivel disquised as a film. Still, got to love him for having an opinion and his excitment level for what he sees.

  • Oct. 7, 2006, 3:50 p.m. CST

    TIdeland and Gilliam in Toronto again Monday

    by hippolyta

    But it's fracking Thanksgiving and I have to spend the day with fracking family!

  • Oct. 8, 2006, 12:59 a.m. CST


    by lavatory love machine

    saw it last night, don't know what to think about it yet, I'm a huge gillian fan, the images are great, but the pace if off, she goes to the woman's house like four times in the movie, it's to much of the same on the other hand this film is deeply shocking, I wacht so many movies that very few still have an effect on me, most it's just to pass the time, but this one doesn't allow you to be indiferent, and that's something, and for me is enough

  • Oct. 20, 2006, 9:31 p.m. CST

    I saw it in Moscow

    by alzhu

    and i cried a lot. Gilliam should have sold his soul to the satan to make such masterpiece. Just amazing!

  • Oct. 22, 2006, 4:09 a.m. CST

    Dear Notfunny: In re: Gilliam "giggling like..."

    by heywood jablomie

    "...a little girl at his own grotesque images." *I* giggle like a little girl at his grotesque images.

  • Oct. 22, 2006, 4:09 a.m. CST

    Dear Notfunny: In re: Gilliam "giggling like..."

    by heywood jablomie

    "...a little girl at his own grotesque images." *I* giggle like a little girl at his grotesque images.

  • Oct. 22, 2006, 4:09 a.m. CST

    Dear Notfunny: In re: Gilliam "giggling like..."

    by heywood jablomie

    "...a little girl at his own grotesque images." *I* giggle like a little girl at his grotesque images.

  • March 9, 2007, 10:22 p.m. CST


    by Quintus_Arrius

    .... I am last!

  • May 16, 2007, 7:09 a.m. CST

    Oh, I do... bastard!

    by Quintus_Arrius

    Your go...

  • May 20, 2007, 3:14 p.m. CST

    OK... How about

    by Quintus_Arrius

    Lord Bastard? How does that fit you?