i don’t know for sure, but i’d be willing to guess that andrew sarris is a fan of terry gilliam’s. sarris is a leading writer in the field of cinema as an auteur movement, and as such he likes to see a director with a unique, identifiable and singular vision. gilliam certainly has that. brazil, 12 monkeys, adventures of baron munchausen and fear & loathing in las vegas all have similar themes and a unique visual style. he makes films about a rugged individual who is on the fringe of society. normally, though, this character (or group of characters – time bandits, and baron munchausen to an extent) is not a mcqueen type of outkast. normally these characters are on the fringe because of both an ideological difference and a slight insanity. hunter thompson is the perfect example of a gilliam character, but really all his characters (fictional or real) are like this. of course this makes gilliam the perfect candidate for the filmed adaptation of don quixote. my impression of gilliam in “lost in la mancha” is that he is a similar character himself. i get the impression that he’s a producer’s worst nightmare in many respects. he’s gifted enough to want to fund, but enough of a disaster to make you hesitate. he’s visionary, but not altogether realistic or practical.
but back to sarris – his primary shortcoming is that he gives too much credit to directors who have a singular vision and too little credit to directors like kubrick, wilder and wyler who don’t seem to have unifying cinematic point of view/style. in gilliam’s case it would be easy to give him a great deal of credit because he’s carved out a unique style of his own. it’s recognizable and imaginative. that said, he, in my opinion, has yet to make a masterpiece. he has a few good films, but nothing that is great. fear & loathing is the closest of his films, in my opinion. his set pieces are great, his humor is good (though not my taste), and he weaves a tapestry rather well. i certainly respect his body of work and his style, but it’s not something that is particularly in line with my tastes.