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Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro. Filled with Terry Gilliam's trademark humor and visual inventiveness, Brazil takes place in a futuristic world where individualism is revoked by a controlling state. In spite of it all, a civil servant dreams of overcoming the bureaucracy, winning over the woman he loves and reinstating true justice. A satirical, imaginative and ambitious film. 1985/color/131 min/NR/widescreen.
If Franz Kafka had been an animator and film director--oh, and a member of Monty Python's Flying Circus--this is the sort of outrageously dystopian satire one could easily imagine him making. However, Brazil was made by Terry Gilliam, who is all of the above except, of course, Franz Kafka. Be that as it may, Gilliam sure captures the paranoid-subversive spirit of Kafka's The Trial (along with his own Python animation) in this bureaucratic nightmare-comedy about a meek governmental clerk named Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) whose life is destroyed by a simple bug. Not a software bug, a real bug (no doubt related to Kafka's famous Metamorphosis insect) that gets smooshed in a printer and causes a typographical error unjustly identifying an innocent citizen, one Mr. Buttle, as suspected terrorist Harry Tuttle (Robert De Niro). When Sam becomes enmeshed in unraveling this bureaucratic glitch, he himself winds up labeled as a miscreant.
The movie presents such an unrelentingly imaginative and savage vision of 20th-century bureaucracy that it almost became a victim of small-minded studio management itself--until Gilliam surreptitiously screened his cut for the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, who named it the best movie of 1985 and virtually embarrassed Universal into releasing it. This DVD version of Brazil is the special director's cut that first appeared in Criterion's comprehensive (and expensive) six-disc laser package in 1996. Although the DVD (at a fraction of the price) doesn't include that set's many extras, it's still a bargain. --Jim Emerson
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The audio and visual quality are generally quite good, though there's visible dirt and grain in a surprising number of frames. What's especially striking, though, is the absence of any special features--in sharp contrast to the abundance of bonus material available on the Criterion releases, above all Terry Gilliam's audio commentary and the "making of" documentary. Moreover, while I actually prefer this original U.S. theatrical version (with the proper ending--not that "Love Conquers All" travesty) to Gilliam's longer director's cut, I was surprised that the missing scenes (about ten minutes' worth of additional material) from that version were not available on this release in any form. Maybe I've just been spoiled by Criterion, but since nothing on the disk itself hints at which of the many versions you're getting, I had wrongly assumed the viewer would have at least the option of seeing the longer version.
That said, this release does substantially improve upon the audio and visual quality of the DVD edition, and serious fans of the movie will certainly want to pick it up. The quality difference is enough that I'd probably still recommend BluRay player owners opt for this over the more feature-rich DVD releases, all things considered, if it's going to be one or the other. But a really definitive edition--with the film imperfections cleaned up and some of the added features that modern movie buyers have come to expect with a home video release--has yet to be produced, alas.
Frankly, I had toyed with getting this movie several years ago but I held off due to the steep prices I kept finding. I bought a used copy at a more reasonable price and found that I got the three CD set. I generally just watch the movie with little or no regard for the extras. "Brazil" is unique enough that I may make an exception with this set.
My first impression is that "Brazil" is a film that looks like what the movie version of "1984" might have looked like if it were made with the film technology of its' title (1984) but with all other technology limited to the year it was copyrighted (1949). I hope that makes sense because I was bewildered by the amazing sets and, to a lesser extent, the special effects. Yet I kept seeing the technology of my parent's era (and I'm 55). As the movie went on I began to enjoy this retro-science fiction movie that shows the real and imagined dangers of the world Orwell tried to warn us about. The over-welming bureaucracy, the signs of Big Brother everywhere, the paranoia of the opressed as well as the opressors, etc... The story swims around in a variety of directions in a world where to think, say or do anything out of the ordinary becomes dangerous. However, it may not be quite so bad given what passes for "ordinary" in this world.
I admit to sensing a time or two that "Brazil" may be too long. If so, I will likely prefer the Producer's cut rather than the 142 minute Director's cut I watched last night. I had started by stating that I had heard of "Brazil" before. After watching it, I can't believe that I haven't heard MORE about it.
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