Thursday, September 15, 2005

Tideland (Terry Gilliam)

Tideland (Terry Gilliam) 69 – I’ve got no clue how Tideland picked up such deadly buzz at the festival (and there were scads of walkouts at my screening…), but to me it’s an infinitely superior film to Gilliam’s recent fiasco The Brothers Grimm. Far more personal than that over-caffeinated bombast, this modern-day fairy tale is a great and distinctive work. Gilliam’s gift for invention is as present as ever here, and what I saw was, counter to what I had been led to expect, much more low-key than Gilliam’s work usually is (it’s certainly no Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in its directorial aggression factor).

One of the most impressive things here is the way the film’s fantasy sequences feel a part of a continuum. Even the most elaborate of effects sequences here (such as a scene in which a house becomes submerged in water) fail to overpower the rest of the film’s mood, and as a result don’t feel like standalone set pieces. Because of this, the film captures the flow of its pre-teen heroine’s imagination in a way that few films manage, flowing into an alternate consciousness that reality keeps sneaking into.

The film is loaded with the sort of obvious symbolism that gives meanings to our fairy tales and the uniqueness of its distinctly American, folkloric imagery conjures a distinctly Midwestern madness. Recalling Northfork at times, but operating on a higher level, the movie is unafraid to probe uncomfortable territory, plunging headlong into fantasies involving sex and death. This is all the more surprising given the story’s roots in a child’s mind, but Gilliam’s willingness to go there gives the movie its considerable emotional depth (the ending is nothing less than beautiful). Editorially, it unfurls at its own distinct rate, though I sort of suspect that what seemed to be pacing issues on my first look will feel a lot more natural when I see the movie again.

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