From his early days in Minnesota, which left an icy impression, through the storyboard of impressionism to film impresario, Terry Gilliam’s ride through popular and counter culture is one even the legendary Hunter S Thompson would admire. But Gilliam’s drug is comedic madness, his firearm celluloid.
Gilliamesque is, as one might expect from such an author, simultaneously over-frilled while somehow conspiring to have no frills at all.
In a sometimes wild but more often studious perusal of a life lived on seemingly fantastical terms, Gilliam manages to stick to a chronological plot while sabotaging it with irreverence mixed seamlessly with absorbing facts and candid scraps, which even the most careful eye might miss on first glance.
Through his time as a member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and into the realm of film (he directed movies including Time Bandits, The Fisher King, 12 Monkeys, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), through friendships and a genuine sorrow at the loss of such, Gilliam retains that implacable sense of tongue-in-cheek beautifully demonstrated in Python’s bizarre illustrations and perfectly timed interludes. All of this makes Gilliamesque not such much a book but a coffee table in its own right.
For a man who has spent the majority of his artistic career behind the scenes, Gilliam’s literary directorship of his own life is a genuine account, glittering with big names dropped in the most non-self-gratuitous way possible.
This memoir delivers the “me me me” its cover art warns of while managing to drag the unwary reader into a gigantic story laced with everything but – and that, perhaps, has always been Terry Gilliam’s forte.
Gilliamesque, by Terry Gilliam, is published by Allen & Unwin, $59.99.
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