There’s always a slight flash of a faint spark — in the air, between your ears, somewhere nearby — when you hear or read the name Terry Gilliam. Despite the fact that 12 Monkeys, which I consider to be his last semi-engaging film, opened 20 years ago. His animated Monty Python days aside, Gilliam’s reputation rests on a five-film, 14-year run that began with Time Bandits (’81), continued with Brazil (’85) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (’88) and concluded with the one-two of The Fisher King (’91) and Monkeys. It’s been fairly dicey for the poor guy ever since. I’m saying that as a fan of the idea of Terry Gilliam more than the reality, but at least I’m saying it. Which is why, despite his 21st Century history, I want to read his book. I do. Honestly.

Three years I wrote the following, called “The Answer“: Deadline‘s Michael Fleming is reporting Christoph Waltz — Waltz! — will star in Terry Gilliam‘s The Zero Theorem. Waltz will play ‘an eccentric, reclusive and angst-plagued computer genius’ named Qohen Leth who’s working ‘on a mysterious project aimed at discovering the purpose of existence — or the lack thereof — once and for all.”

HE memo to Gilliam and Waltz: I figured this out years ago and have explained it once or twice in this column. The purpose of human existence is the same one shared by trees, grass, insects, trout, elephants, cats, dogs, worms, poisonous snakes and armadillos, which is to manifest and re-produce for the elemental purpose of manifesting and re-producing. To be is to be is to be…that’s it!

“For sentient beings with the ability to read, write and make movies the additional challenge is to devise a philosophy that permits an enthusiastic and whole-hearted continuance of this process without succumbing to depression (see: any Woody Allen film after Bananas) or self-destruction or mindlessness (see: Fight Club).

“So now that we know, why would anyone want to spend two hours in the company of a guy who’s trying to figure this out, especially one with a dipshit name like Qohen Leth?”

I posted the following piece, “Uh-Oh…Gilliam!.” on 8.19.08:

“It’s become such an absolute given that Terry Gilliam‘s movies have stopped selling tickets that I couldn’t find the energy to comment on Stephen Zeitchik‘s 8.15 Hollywood Reporter piece. It said buyers were wary of Gilliam’s latest, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, despite the presence of Heath Ledger in this, his very last film. The title alone puts the fear of God into me. Zeitchik is hearing what he’s hearing because every distributor in the world knows it will put the fear of God into everyone on the planet Earth.

“Sad to say, the signs and indications are that Gilliam is probably over. The last film of his that I even half-liked was Twelve Monkeys, which came out 13 years ago. The most interesting thing he made before that was The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (’88), which I loved in certain respects but nonetheless made me fidget around in my seat. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (’98) was a chore to sit through — be honest. And Tideland (’05) was sheer torture.

“And yet Gilliam is a film artist, and the world of movies is richer even for his attempts to make his films work on some level. The thing no one wants to admit is that the more recent ones have been hell to sit through.”

Posted on 10.10.06 — “Gilliam on the streets“:

“This is hilarious — Terry Gilliam on the streets plugging the Manhattan opening of Tideland (IFC, 10.13) and looking for loose change in the bargain. I’ve seen most of Tideland (I walked out after an hour) and this clip is fifteen times more entertaining. Gilliam’s spirit is infectious.”