Fisher King commentary

Tragic as the reason was, there’s been a muted pleasure in seeing people go back to The Fisher King in the wake of Robin Williams‘ death. The 1991 movie is among the least flashy of Terry Gilliam‘s films, and one that in the past decade or so seems to have taken a back seat to consideration of higher-profile films like Brazil and Twelve Monkeys.

The Fisher King is a great movie, and a strange one. But it grounds Gilliam’s quirky and excessive tendencies in a handful of really wonderful characters who are brought to life by great performances. Robin Williams, in particular, is at the top of his game as a man whose life has turned completely upside-down in the wake of his wife’s death. The film can be relentlessly brutal, but it is also beautifully funny, and full of life. At it’s heart, this is a musical, and it’s a pleasure to see Gilliam and the cast play.

There are a lot of treasures hidden on now out of print Criterion laserdiscs, and here’s one of them. This feature commentary from Terry Gilliam isn’t in print any longer, as it only appeared on the laserdisc release of the movie. But you can listen to the Fisher King commentary below.

[via The Playlist]

This particular commentary track is a real link to the past for me. The Fisher King was among the first laserdiscs I bought, and I picked it up for this commentary track. (I spent a not-inconsiderable amount of early ’90s money on a laserdisc player just for tracks like this.) Commentaries are de rigueur now, but at the time it seemed remarkable that a director could talk the home audience all the way through any given film. Gilliam has a lot of great things to say about his process, and the work of the actors, and how they all really perfected the story and characters together.

(At the time I was also newly converted to the cult of Tom Waits, and part of the attraction of this commentary was the snippet of talk about Waits’ appearance. That comes it at about 53:15.)

 

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