Munchausen reviewer missed historical context
The Tech's review of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen ["Terry Gilliam's ponderous fantasy Baron Munchausen doth collapse," April 4] evidenced two things. The movie is probably doomed to obscurity in America due to our lack of familiarity with the stories, and The Tech's reviewer did not research the production of the film.
Baron Munchausen is not a creation of Terry Gilliam's. Munchausen's adventures appeared in various forms between 1781 (in "Vademecums fur lustige Leute") and 1788, when, I believe, they attained their present form. The stories are lent the name of Karl Friedrich Hieronymus Freiherr (Baron) von Munchhasen (1720-1797), who had a penchant for telling tall tales.
Most of the tales were assembled by Professor Rudolf Erich Raspe, who flew from Germany to England to escape embezzlement charges. Raspe added more tales in the subsequent editions of the book, as did Gottfried August Burger in his German translation.
The stories once enjoyed a popularity comparable to that of the Grimm's fairy tales or the Mother Goose nursery rhymes. Although their popularity has waned over the years, similar to the wane of the popularity of Paul Bunyan tales in this country, they are still an important part of the cultural heritage of large parts of Western Europe.
Terry Gilliam took a collection of classic yarns connected loosely by sparse narrative and wove them into a story. His success in doing this is debatable, but to judge the film artistically out of this context is unfair.
The Tech's review lacked this context. It is akin to reviewing Monty Python and the Holy Grail without mentioning the traditional tales of King Arthur and the knights of the round table. I think if the reviewer read Raspe's or Burger's collections and then saw the movie, he would have a greater understanding of what Gilliam was trying to do and his constraints.
Ernie Fasse G->