Directed by Terry Gilliam
Distributed by ThinkFilm
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a fan of everything Terry Gilliam’s been involved with, from Monty Python to Brazil to The Adventures of Baron Munchausen; the man’s work has always held a special place in my heart for its almost child-like view on the world, no matter how dark the subject.
Of course, The Brothers Grimm was a bit of a disappointment, but if you believe everything you read about Gilliam’s dealings with the Weinsteins, it’s easy to understand that that wasn’t exactly Terry’s fault. Luckily he was able to move on from that nightmare right into Tideland to get back to making films the way he does best: without committee and with as much fantastical imagination as he can fit on the screen. Whether or not that makes Tideland a new Gilliam classic is decidedly up to the viewer.
The story follows Jeliza Rose (Ferland), a young girl who is whisked away by her father (Bridges) when her mother (Jennifer Tilly, looking decidedly unsexy) dies of some unexplained drug overdoese, out of the big city and into the middle of nowhere to live on a farm he purchased many years before and was once home to Jeliza Rose’s grandmother. Shortly after their arrival her father, heroin addict and washed-up rock star that he is, dies as well and Jeliza Rose is left to fend for herself, her only company being a set of four doll heads she keeps on her fingers and gives voices to, serving as her imaginary friends.
She never quite comes to accept that her father is dead, leaving him in the chair he died in for the entire movie, and the neighbors she soon meets, siblings Dell and the mentally challenged Dickens, don’t help much not only by not acknowledging the dead man themselves, but rather believing that as long as he’s not buried, he’s still with them. Seems Dell had a bit of fling with Jeliza Rose’s father back in the day and is overjoyed that he’s come back to them, going so far as to use her taxidermy skills on his corpse to disturbing effectiveness.
Needless to say it is a dark and strange world Jeliza Rose inhabits, but it’s one that she’s able to accept for the most part thanks to her near limitless imagination. This comes in a large part from her constant re-reading of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, a tale that is both referenced and has inspiration drawn from many times throughout Tideland.
So one question you might be asking yourself is: Is Tideland a horror film? Is there good reason for it to be on Dread Central? The answer is a little complicated, but I believe it’s dark and twisted enough in its own way to justify mention here. It’s certainly one of Gilliam’s most uncomfortable movies to watch thanks in no small part to Ferland’s performance as Jeliza Rose, which is that of a girl far beyond her actual 9 years. She displays a maturity and courage that most actresses never come upon; I hope she keeps getting daring roles like these and doesn’t fall into the money-making machine of being a pretty girl in romantic comedies. The girl has got some incredible talent that was only barely touched on in Silent Hill; Gilliam has been able to bring all her levels to the forefront in Tideland in order to create a very dark reality that most kids could not imagine living through.
The DVD for Tideland goes a long way to show just how content Gilliam is working in his natural environment, one that’s free of studio pressure and other such bits of bullshit and allows him to be truly the creative genius that he is.
Disc One is the feature with some compelling commentary by Gilliam, managing to cover both the technical and personal aspects of making Tideland, but the meat of this two-disc set is on Disc Two. The main feature here is the 45-minute film Getting Gilliam, directed and narrated by Cube helmer and lifetime Gilliam devotee Vincenzo Natali.
Natali was allowed to follow Terry around through pre- to post-production to get a better idea of how the man works and, as he says during the final minutes of the documentary, comes away with just as many questions as when he started. Gilliam is both enigmatic and incredibly down-to-earth, a director who can say he knows what he wants even when he might not, but everyone he works with trusts implicitly. The commentary that goes along with the short film is definitely worth a listen to as well, if nothing else to get a sense of how Gilliam felt about being discussed for so long.
Following that there is the quick 5-minute making-of featurette, which despite its short length manages to fit in interviews with all the major stars as well as the producers and Gilliam himself. Now that’s some good editing. There’s also a quick bit on Gilliam’s use of the green screen, which is plentiful, a few deleted scenes that are actually worth watching, and lengthy on-camera chats with Gilliam and producer Jeremy Thomas.
All in all it’s a very nice package for a film that was sadly underplayed during its brief theatrical run, so I hope those of you who have been unquestioning fans of Gilliam’s work like I have will give it a chance. If nothing else it’s easy to say that there’s never been a film quite like Tideland before, nor will there likely ever be again, which is what helps make it a quintessential Terry Gilliam film.
3 1/2 out of 5
3 out of 5
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