Sunday, February 25, 2007


Sorry for the long synopsis (All Movie Guide), but anything less would not do it justice:

Brazil constitutes Terry Gilliam's enormously ambitious follow-up to his 1981 Time Bandits. It also represents the second installment in a trilogy of Gilliam films on imagination versus reality, that began with Bandits and ended in 1989 with The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. To create this wild, visually audacious satire, Gilliam combines dystopian elements from Orwell, Huxley and Kafka (plus a central character who mirrors Walter Mitty) with his own trademark, Monty Python-esque, jet black British humor and his gift for extraordinary visual invention. The results are thoroughly unprecedented in the cinema.

Jonathan Pryce stars as Sam Lowry, a civil servant who chooses to blind himself to the decaying, drone-like world around him. It's a world marred by oppressive automatization and towering bureaucracy, and populated by tyrannical guards who strongarm lawbreakers. And Lowry is stuck in the middle of this nightmare. Whenever real life becomes too oppressive, Sam fantasizes (to the tune of Ary Baroso's 1930s hit "Brazil") about sailing through the clouds as a winged superhero, and rescuing beautiful Jill Layton (Kim Greist) from a giant, Samurai warrior. The omnipresent computer that controls everything in the "real" world malfunctions, causing an innocent citizen to be arrested and tortured to death. When Sam routinely investigates the error, he meets - and pursues Jill , literally the girl of his dreams. But in real life, she's a tough-as-nails truck driver who initially wants nothing to do with him. It turns out that she is suspected of underground activities, in connection with a terrorist network wanted for bombing public places. The price Sam pays for his association with her is a close encounter with the man in charge of torturing troublesome citizens Michael Palin. He is rescued - at the last minute - by maintenance man Harry Tuttle, Robert De Niro, who moonlights as a terrorist, but that only represents the beginning of his plight, for now the "system" is onto him.

Gilliam ran into enormous problems with Brazil. Universal - which produced the picture - originally slated it for release in 1984, but the studio - intimidated by the film's whopping length of 142 minutes - demanded that Gilliam trim the film to bring it in under two hours and alter the pessimistic ending. Gilliam refused; Universal shelved the picture for a year. In response, the director took out a full page ad in Variety asking studio president Sid Sheinberg when the film would be released. Sensing tremendous pressure, Universal bowed to Gilliam's insistence on fewer cuts but still demanded a happy ending. Gilliam trimmed only eleven minutes and altered the conclusion just slightly (instead of cutting to black, it fades into puffy white clouds on a blue sky, with a reprise of the title tune). It was thus released in early 1985 at 131 minutes, and of course became a seminal work; many critics regarded it at the time as the best film of the eighties. ~ Nathan Southern

There's not much left for me to say. This is a great film and it's one of the few times that I'd actually say, "See this movie," because, if you like movies, movies this good don't come around very often. This film is somewhat "heavier" than Gilliam's previous and post work (except for "12 Monkeys") and depicts an extremely dystopian society.

If you decide to see it, make sure to see the unedited version and not the "love conquers all" version. Recently (Sept 2006), The Criterion Collection released an updated dvd of the film in a single disc version or a three disc set. The single disc is the original (Terry Gilliam approved) version and the three disc set includes the original version, the "love conquers all" version and tons of extras and documentaries. Both options had been release by Criterion, in the past, but the Sept. releases have now had their sound upgraded and the images have been remastered in high-definition and enhanced for wide screen televisions which really showcase Terry Gilliam's attention to detail.


Chris said...

I watched this movie for the first time last year and could not believe how relevant the themes were in the post 9/11 world. As governments are trying to chip away at personal freedoms all in the name of national security and we know what's best for our citizens. V fo Vendetta also has this common theme as well. I always end up getting quite rilled up at the end of it.

Speaking of Terry, have you seen the documentary Lost in La Mancha? A must see if you are a fan about how he works in crafting his vision and what happened to this doomed film.

FYI - went to a 'surprise' file as part of the Glasgow Film Festival last night. You pay your 6.00 and don't know until the flick starts what you are seeing. It was the new David Lynch film Inland Empire. It's pretty out there and tripy. But I've seen just about every movie he's made, he is one twisted puppy.

John Taylor said...

hi chris,
I enjoyed "V" as well - and feel the same. Thanks for mentioning Lost in La Mancha - I haven't seen it....yet. I intend to rectify that very soon.
As far as Lynch goes, I think I've seen all of his, as well. I've heard good things about Inland Empire - but mostly that it's true David Lynch. Only Lynch would start filming a movie with no script.

Chris said...

Oh? Hadn't heard that part, but it would explain a few things.

It's nice finding someone that is obsessed about movies as I am. One of these day's I must compile a list of the most interesting that I've seen in the last few years to see if you've seen them. I'll save that for a rainy day (which should be soon).

John Taylor said...

That's a good idea - I'll be looking forward to it. All I ask it that you send along a picture of the rainy day - we never get really good rainy days, here - so I'll take what I can get.

Chris said...

Um ya, like don't you guys get hurricanes in Florida?

John Taylor said...

Sure we get hurricanes - but that's just a wee bit different than a rainy day. I guess, technically, a hurricane could be considered a 'rainy day' but, in my way of thinking, what I consider a 'rainy day' can actually be enjoyed. Hurricanes, not so much.....nor the 20 days without power, afterward. Maybe I'm just being a nitpick.