Customer Reviews: Brazil
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HALL OF FAMEon July 20, 2002
Produced in 1985, "Brazil" is a black (and bleak) comedy about a future gone eerily awry. A future that, since this is 2002, is already coming true around us. Terry Gilliam's brilliant, colorfully retro vision of the future has little in common with the styling of Orwell's "1984," but deep inside the message is the nearly the same. The only real difference is that, unlike Orwell, Gilliam believes that the one fragile hope is the durability of the human imagination.
The opening scenes of the film reveal a manic world, where a bug (literally) in the works triggers the spectacular arrest of one Archibald Buttle, whose off-screen death under interrogation triggers a flurry of clerical paperwork. The world we see is fascinating, full of automation nearly gone berserk and the hapless human machinery that fills in the gaps. In this world, one may not only face hard interrogation, but be billed for that service as well. When Buttle, mistaken for terrorist Harry Tuttle, suffers a heart attack under questioning, Information Retrieval issues a refund. However, his wife's lack of a bank account triggers a series of complications. Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce), a daydreaming bureaucrat in the Ministry of Information, takes up the task of resolving the situation by hand delivering the check.
Harry faces many delightfully comic situations on his quest, as machinery refuses to function for him and the people in his world seem to treat him as something not quite socially acceptable. But all of this is brought up sharply when he finally confronts the widow. "My husband's dead, is he," she cries, "What have you done with his body?" Suddenly we are confronted with the truth. The surface is only a surface. As in "The Matrix," once you are past it something horrific looms. "Brazil" will continue to play this theme throughout. Walls conceal semi-organic, hostile masses of tubes and ductwork, room dividers separate upper-class diners from the gory reality of a terrorist bombing. Masses of plastic surgery cover the flaws of aging beauty.
It is no surprise that Harry falls victim to his own daydreams. Looking up through a hole in Mrs. Buttle's ceiling Lowry spies the face of the woman of his dreams, Jill the truck driver, played wonderfully by Kim Geist. In his desperate attempts to track her down, Sam transfers into the dark world of Information Retrieval. There, aided my his friend Jack Lint (Michael Palin), he finds out what he needs, but inadvertently sets in motion a series of events that can only be describes as a burlesque apocalypse. Layer after layer of his society's illusions collapse around him and Jill with humorous, but nightmarish precision.
Terry Gilliam has proven himself a genius at using dark humor and sarcasm to engage in a plot that would be horribly difficult otherwise. As in "The Fisher King," we laugh and snicker right up until we confront the truth. "Brazil" is a brilliant example of this. Full of the imaginative imagery of a retro-future world and great acting by a cast that includes the likes of Robert De Niro and Katherine Helmond it is an experience that stuns the sensibilities while bringing home its message. In his notes, Gilliam calls this a light-hearted nightmare. One will haunt you for some time to come.
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on July 16, 2006
This is the re-release of Brazil by Criterion, which stars Robert DeNiro, Jonathan Pryce, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins and many more, and directored by Terry Gilliam.... this is the ulitmate movie that all science fiction buffs must own...

So what is the difference between this release and the previous 3 disc collection???? Well primarily, it's for the new Anamorphic presentation of the film, it will otherwise be the same as the previous release......

For those who already own the previous release, my suggestion is to go for the single discer to replace the older non Anamorphic feature disc, but for those who don't have a copy... what are u waiting for ???? Get this boxset today!!!!This is the very defintion of what eXtras on a dvd collector's set should have..... Criterion accomplished the untinkiable!!!

For the benefit of those who do not have the previous release, this is the breakdown of all the dvd details....

142 minutes, Color,1.78:1 Aspect Ratio, Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0

Anamorphically enhanced, English.


All-new, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Terry Gilliam, with a remastered Dolby stereo surround soundtrack--NOW IN ANAMORPHIC!!

Audio commentary by Gilliam

Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

PLUS: An essay by Jack Mathews


A treasure trove of Brazil-iana:

30-minute on-set documentary What Is Brazil?

Criterion's original exposé The Battle of "Brazil": A Video History, which reassembles players in the battle over the film's U.S. release

Hundreds of storyboards, drawings, and publicity and production stills

Rare raw and behind-the-scenes footage

Exclusive video interviews with the production team

Original theatrical trailer


The 94-minute "Love Conquers All" version of Brazil, with all the changes Gilliam refused to make

An audio essay by journalist David Morgan
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If you already have this set just purchase the single disc edition of "Brazil" (which is why I suspect Criterion made it available realizing that fans might be upset at having to spend $50+ again). The single disc edition is the first disc of this set remastered, enhanced for 16x9 TVs with the commentary track from Gilliam. It features the 142 minute version of the movie that Gilliam cut vs. the 131 minute version from the regular Universal DVD release. Otherwise if you are a huge fan of this film the boxed set is worth picking up.

The second and third disc of this set includes the 92 minute "Love Conquers All" version of the film that Sid Sheinberg cobbled together to make the film more appealing to audiences (with a happy ending). There's also a documentary entitled "What Is Brazil?" as well as a great interview with Terry Gilliam. We also get an audio tape of Sheinberg discussing the movie (no visuals not even still pictures of the executive or behind-the-scenes photos during this section which is still odd but then it again it duplicated the laserdisc release).

It's a great set but I'd recommend just picking up the first disc and keeping your old three disc set as there are no extras that are any different from the previous edition. Why Criterion was so late to jump on the anamorphic bandwagon is beyond me (it definitely improves the picture quality). This set is worth every penny if you're a great fan of the film but most folks will be happy with the single disc edition of the film.
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on July 11, 2011
Brazil [Blu-ray]

On this Blu-ray for the first time ever we get the ORIGINAL 132 minute version of the film as was shown in U.S. theaters.
(Note: This is NOT the "Love Conquers All" Sheinberg/TV Edit.)
All the DVD releases before this have been the European Version/Director's Cut of the film. Even the original Universal DVD release that said Theatrical Cut on the box actually had the European Version/Director's Cut.

Unfortunately, Universal didn't really spend any time cleaning up the negative for Hi-Definition (there is very noticeable instances of dirt and debris on the negative) but it still beats the image quality found on the Universal SD DVD, and they do include an amazing DTS-HD Master 5.1. We'll just have to wait for the Criterion Blu-ray of Brazil for image perfection but serious fans of Brazil will want to get this Blu-ray edition just to have this version of the film as it was originally seen in theaters in 1985.

I actually find this 132-minute version is in many ways a superior cut of the film. Here are the differences in detail:

*In the 132-minute version you cut from Sam in bed with Jill, police sack goes
over head, then CUT TO Pull off police sack to reveal Sam in Torture
Chamber/Interrogation chair. This one cut is simply brilliant and very powerful.
In the Criterion Version you have the added scene of Mr. Helpman as Father
Christmas (completely out of charcater from the rest of the film) and the whole
interrogation scene of Sam hanging from the rack inside the police/mail pouch
which becomes narratively redundant and dilutes the impact of the final scene.

*To end it with cooling tower/interrogation room fade to clouds was a great Gilliam
wink of subversion and irreverence to the cliche Hollywood Ending. As opposed to
the European cut of just credits over cooling tower/interrogation room.

*The Samurai Scene is divided into 3 separate scenes in the 132-minute version
versus 1 LONG scene in the European cut. And you know what? Like most things,
it works better in 3's.

*The 132-minute version cuts straight to the Dinner Scene with Ida (his mother)
ordering numero deux, trois, etc. while the European version has the entrance to
the restaurant of going through the metal detector which really doesn't add
anything and is again a bit redundant when the bomb does eventually go off in
the restaurant. With the scene, you're signaling to the audience we are looking for a bomb, so we expect a bomb. Without the added scene, the bombing is unexpected and it actually shocks you so you're both horrified and laughing. The unexpectedness also works as it builds upon the bomb motif from the first explosion at the beginning of Brazil during the Ducts advert.

*And finally I just love that the 132-minute version opens on those clouds (outtakes
from The Never-Ending Story) then goes to the Central Services advert about
Ducts: "Are your ducts old-fashioned, out-of-date... " Now the Criterion version
also has the clouds opening (The Original European Cut didn't) but it's funny
because the Studio asked Gilliam to start off with the clouds for the US Cut and he
actually prefers it as quoted in his Director's commentary. Hilarious.

Little changes that add up to a tighter and overall, better film.
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on May 7, 2000
Filled with deep symbolism and dark humor, "Brazil" is a dynamic movie that, in Terry Gilliam's words, is not about the future, "but the present." There are some moments of sheer genius in this film. One is the restaurant scene in which a terrorist bomb explodes on the other side of where some characters are eating. The unharmed patrons pause for a moment, then, unblinking and without turning, go back to their meals and conversation. The musicians, some slightly charred, resume playing. And, capping it off, Sam's youth-obsessed mother, Ida (the divine Katherine Helmond) says to her friend, "What were we saying?" as workers scramble to set up a screen so that the dying and burning cannot distort the lovely view. This is Grade-A commentary on the way civilians ignore horrible crimes because of their commonplace occurrances. It often takes a presidential assassination, a bombed federal building with millions trapped inside, a downed airplane lost at sea, a Columbine High School, a Titanic, or a towering inferno to make everyone look up for two seconds before you hear them say "Oh, God, is that STILL in the papers?" Another shining moment is actually several moments. Ida's gruesome but intriguing plastic surgery, along with her increasing youth throughout the picture, goes up alongside her friend. This friend, visiting an "acid man," rapidly deteriorates throughout the film until she is a nasty, gelatinous mess, tipping its hat (so to speak) to the Beverly Hills facelift crowd. The other great achievement is the repeated appearance of forms. Forms, forms, you can't repair a wire, or even get another form, without one. Beauracracy is another great target of "Brazil." This is one film not to be missed, but will only be understood even slightly, unfortunately, by painfully few (not even Roger Ebert got it. Ha! Imagine that!). Still, it deserves to be noticed as one of the greatest films of modern years.
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on December 5, 2005

This is a 5-Star film unlike virtually all others.

We have elements of 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and Gilliam's own nightmares all compressed into a sprawling, impressionist black-comedic epic. Compressed, but still sprawling. Significant meaning is here but, like a new impressionistic painting, this still fresh statement needs careful and open-minded interpretation to find what is at its core.


Basically, a technocrat makes a mistake which is born of the computer that basically runs things by containing all the info that leads to all the conclusions. But, mistakes happen and Jonathan Pryce, who plays Sam Lowrey, is the one who is going to try to fix it. NOT SO FAST! A man is already dead!

Yes, a bug [an insect] got into the workings of "the computer" and caused the imprisonment and death of Archibald Buttle. In fact it was Archibald Tuttle [Robert De Niro], not Buttle, that should have been apprehended. In any event, it was done without due process and Buttle dies during the torturing interrogation, of a so-called heart attack.

But, Sam Lowrey is too indoctrinated to deal effectively with the bureaucracy that has evolved into a faceless, technocratic, totalitarian state. We have Robert De Niro playing Archibald "Harry" Tuttle who occasionally explodes onto the scene like he is James Bond doing a patented Bond action scene. In reality [if there is such a thing here], Tuttle was the real target of the "mistake" that led to the death that Lowrey is trying to correct. You see, in this world, trying to fix an air conditioner correctly can make you a terrorist, even if you are employed by the government to do just that! You break with standard procedure and voila -- YOU'RE A TERRORIST.


The correction that Lowrey is trying to effect is a refund for the cost of Buttle's wrongful arrest. In essence, when you are arrested, as Buttle was, you are levied a fee to cover the costs of your arrest, and since Buttle was not supposed to be arrested, it was vital to return the fee that the government collected from his family for his arrest. Notably absent is any thought of the wrongful death of Buttle, as that was not the mistake as far as the system and the computer was concerned. Therefore, we see how Lowrey and the system are completely indifferent to the devastating impact that this "mistake" has had on Buttle's family. The problem is that they [Lowrey's dept.] have money collected by mistake and it must be accounted for and he is the agent which has been chosen to deliver the refund. This is really ridiculous stuff, but not that far off from where things in a computerized world can already be heading.


Lowrey deals with his ethical conflict by playing out very elaborate dreams, which appear almost real or surreal to the viewer. People in this near-future world have become very dependent on the computer that runs the government and, as a result, the citizens have degenerated into a mass of vain, superficial non-entities. Simply stated, the computerization of this future world has caused wholesale dehumanization which has undermined the human spirit. The embodiment of that spirit is represented here in Lowrey's fantasies. As banal and insignificant as they may seem, they are still true and genuine and of the individual, not the government. Therein lies the significance.


Of course we have a romance, a product of Lowrey's dreams and maybe the woman in his dreams is a terrorist, or maybe she's just a truck driver. Until the end we don't know how it will all turn out or what it is all about. After the end, you be the judge. As for myself, I'll have to see it again a couple of times and see what I think.


I am reviewing the 142-minute version with an excellent and clean Widescreen transfer in Dolby Digital 2.0., English only, but subtitles available for English, Spanish and French.

If you are looking for features, buy the "Criterion Edition", but be warned, they are running almost $50.00 as of this writing!
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on August 26, 2010
Critics (such as the film's most famed detractor- Roger Ebert, whose only point worth noting is his likening the film to Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times) have often compared it to George Orwell's 1984, but, naturally, this is a rather facile comparison, and made mostly because of the plethora of insipidly quotable state sponsored apothegms, like `Don't suspect a friend- report him,' `Be alert- some terrorists look normal,' and `Suspicion breeds confidence.' The state that Sam lives in, in the film, is rather inept (witness the ease with which the rather bumbling Tuttle thwarts the authorities at almost every stage). Sam fails not because the state overpowers him, like Winston Smith to the Oceania authorities in 1984, but because his bumbling and idiocy is even more pathetic than the state's. In effect, Sam fails because he's even more inept and personally weak than the system that subjugates him- he wins the devolutionary race to the bottom (is a Lowest Common Denominator society the cause or result of its citizens?). This is especially true in contrast to De Niro's Tuttle; which augurs well for the citizens of their inept state; whereas the residents of the dismal Orwellian Oceania are doomed.

The DVD package comes in three disks. Disk One has the Final Cut, in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, as well as an audio commentary by director Gilliam. It is lucid, passionate, engaging, and truly a delight. Rare is the filmmaker, outside of Werner Herzog, who seems engaged by discussing both his film, its circumstances, and its art. Gilliam also dispels the myth that the film was named after the title song, Aquarela Do Brasil; instead claiming the title was gotten first (after a dream Gilliam had of the film's opening in a rain forest about to be techno-plundered) and the song added afterwards. It's interesting that in the few dozen reviews I looked at of this film, not a single critic gives the correct provenance for the film's title- even after claiming to have reviewed the DVD. The transfer is very good, and Gilliam gives so much engaging information that it almost makes the special features on Disk Two seem persiflage by comparison. That disk has two excellent documentaries- a contemporaneous 30 minute long What is Brazil? film that serves as a de facto Making Of featurette, and a 60 minute film, called The Battle Of Brazil, that details the film's struggles against its studio, Universal, and its idiotic empty suits, as well as a piece of grandstanding by the Los Angeles Film Critics Society (of which host and film critic Jack Mathews was part of), which chose Brazil as best film of the year to force the studio to release the full version. Other features include the theatrical trailer, storyboards and assorted crew recollections and discussions of the film. Disk Three has the bowdlerized 94 minute version, and a commentary by David Morgan- a film expert on the works and career of Gilliam. While he is dutiful in pointing out when and where the two films diverge, Morgan is rather useless in discussing other aspects of the film, like some of the moments that are unaffected by the changes, and a few actual improvements- such as the substitution of a few close-ups for long shots, or certain angles the camera shoots at, which give a deeper `in' to the `moment.' His high point is catching the biggest error Gilliam's bowdlerizers made- leaving in the `dream sequence' shot of Tuttle getting devoured by windblown newspapers. In the longer version we see this as one of the first hints that Sam's `escape' from captivity is not real. But, in this version, where the escape is `real,' Tuttle's demise is more than incongruous, it's an actual thumb in the eye. He follows that up by ending his commentary asking which of the two films is the more subversive- the bowdlerized cut which suggests that power can be subverted, or the final cut which shows the only `escape' from authoritarianism is death or insanity?

As for the film itself, there is no great nor memorable camera work to speak of- the odd angles Gilliam uses are all rather standard fare from his Python days, for this film is almost wholly dependent upon the great screenplay by Gilliam, playwright Tom Stoppard, and Charles McKeown, as well as some truly outstanding (and subtle) comic acting by the stars and supporting cast, which included Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins, Ian Richardson, Peter Vaughan, and Jim Broadbent. And, when I say `acting,' I truly mean it. This is acting not built on melodramatic high points, but on often fleeting moments of sardonism where the turn of an eye, or the tic in a face can convey something, both from the main and supporting cast. Pryce, as example, was relatively unknown before this film, while De Niro was in his post-Taxi Driver-Raging Bull heyday as `the greatest actor in the world,' yet it is Pryce's acting that dominates the film, whereas De Niro's is a supporting role in all measures of the term.

Brazil is a theatrical film that is unique. Despite constant and wrongheaded comparisons to other dystopias, it is a film that clearly inspired later filmmakers- most notably Canada's Guy Maddin. But, it also clearly had an inspiration few have noticed- the classic 1967 British television series, The Prisoner. Both works essentially end with the destruction of the individual (even if The Prisoner's lead character `escapes'- he still is destroyed for he is revealed as the villain) in response to modern society. The only essential difference is that more inept and cowardly Sam Lowry never quite realizes he's a prisoner in The Village (or perhaps does, but refuses his reality, thereby deepening his pathos). All in all, The Criterion Collection's DVD set of the film is equal to the film it presents, and that is something all cinemaphiles can celebrate. Get to it!
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on February 7, 2006
In light of the world we live in now this movie should be a must see. It makes one feel a bit uncomfortable to watch the characters maneuver around a world where increasing terrorism is met with increasing security and oppression. The movie begins with an insect lighting on a keyboard causing a typographical error. This typo leads to the wrong individual being picked up for "questioning" in relation to terrorism. The poor man dies in the interrogation (torture) and our unlikely protagonist is drawn into a series of events as a result.

It is a complex movie with many messages and complex layers of detail. So much so that the movie merits multiple viewings before you catch it all. I love reading the posters in the background. A couple of my favorites; "Don't suspect a friend---report him" and a travel poster advertising a week free from anxiety and panic in a security free zone. Other scenes that stay with me are vehicles traveling a road with huge advertisement billboards lining it completely so that you don't see anything but advertisement after advertisement when you drive. The camera pulls back and we see what the vehicles do not, behind the billboards the countryside is an environmental wasteland.

The plot is convoluted though and at times the movie feels overlong. There is so much to absorb one can feel oversaturated by the movie, especially on first viewing. The atmosphere in the film is one of a sort of strange surrealism. Computers have old typewriter keyboards and elements that suggest a futuristic society are combined with elements of the past and those that feel more like an alternative dimension to the one we are in. Sort of like you stepped into a Dali painting. All this can make the movie a little dense to wade through at first. Worth the effort though and makes repeat viewing more enjoyable.
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on January 24, 2005
One of the most imaginative movies ever made, Brazil is the tale of a dreamer living in a dystopic future whose citizens have traded their liberty for security, and not much of that either. Only Terry Gilliam could have delivered the visual thrills that such a movie provides. The future is a mad conglomeration of high technology (telephones, auto, computers, TVs) and ancient tech (ductwork, magnifying lenses and complicated cables). Nothing works well, but no one particularly notices. Terrorists are hunted down with brutal police methods, but the public is mollified since suspects must pay for the cost of their own interrogation and torture. The rich and elderly are consumed with having their bodies remolded into better and better semblances of youth, suffering endless infections with giddy optimism. Shapeless, tasteless food is served with photographs of the dishes they represent.

Into this complacent hell of a Paradise, comes Sam Lowery, a disconnected bureaucrat whose success comes from having that indispensible (and dangerous) asset -- common sense. Sam is hurled out of his reveries when the system makes a mistake -- something it cannot tolerate. In attempting to rectify the mistake, Sam is confronted by the victims of his bureaucracy and is caught in the gears of his smooth-running system. The ending is happy and distressing, as both Lowery and the system are "victorious" against each other.

The movie seems longer than the version I saw in theaters in the 1980s. It became a tiny bit tedious toward the end, with repetitive chases and escapes, but the conclusion was right on. Lowery and the system both wound up winners, in their own, unproductive ways. Politically, "Brazil" is even more relevant now than in 1985. The degree to which people can become accustomed to intrusive government action (especially if they are not personally affected) and to confusing and inconvenient technology is presented marvelously. "Brazil" is a work of visual and political genius.
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on September 5, 2011
The film Brazil itself is one of my favorites, and easily deserves five stars: If you haven't seen the movie, go read some of those glowing and well-deserved five-star reviews to learn why you really ought to. I'm docking a star exclusively from the Universal BluRay edition. (Incidentally, Amazon: It would be nice if we had the option of star-rating the work and the release separately.)

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.
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