on 29 January 2007
This is an adaptation of Mitch Cullin's Tideland, a category defying film that is at turns poetic, disgusting, absurd, and darkly funny (think the languid pacing of Spirit of the Beehive, the fever dream of Alice in Wonderland, the wry insanity Psycho, and a large dose of Terence Malik gone insane).
In many ways, this is the purest Gilliam film since Brazil (a film that also borrowed liberally from other sources while maintaining its own originality), and hearkens back to the days when auteurs were not only allowed to follow their wildest muse but were expected to do so. And that, too, presents what will no doubt be Tideland's greatest failing, as well as its highest achievement. Cinema has become so cynical in the last twenty years, so narrow in scope and so entertainment driven, that anything which requires viewers to experience a motion picture on its own terms is usually greeted with scorn.
These would be very tough times, indeed, for the likes of a young Fellini, Kubrick, and Lynch. That's not to say Tideland is a perfectly misunderstood creation, although it should be pointed out that those who are screaming foul about this film being pointless, self indulgent, and too weird are likely the very same people who ridiculed Grimm for being unoriginal, mainstream, and plain. Yes, there were walkouts at its screenings, gasps of shock, even angry grumbling. There were also laughs, applause, and continued debates concerning what the film was really about (how often does that occur these days after a screening?).
In the end, Tideland will likely please a select group who prefer to experience cinema rather than opposing it with their own expectations (there were those who were still talking about it two days following its premiere, even when they hated it). But for those who are anxiously wanting Time Bandits 2 or desire some degree of Pythonesque humor, Tideland will disturb, bore, and profoundly bother to the point of contempt. Nevertheless, it is a very unique and, at times, incredible film, infused with at least two amazing performances, beautiful photography, and one of the most enigmatic endings I've seen in ages.
Hate it or love it, few will be able to deny the lingering, ineffable vibrations left by this film, or that it stands as further proof that its director has stayed true to himself. Of course, prepare for the yin/yang laments to come in spades: Grimm would have been a better film had Gilliam been left to his own devices; Tideland would have been a better film had Gilliam not been left to his own devices. Poor Terry Gilliam; apparently he can do no right even when he does.
Me? I loved every minute of it and I am putting this beside Fear and Loathing in the cult section.