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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. --Jim Emerson
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-Stupid Love Plot: Terry Gilliam tries to ape George Orwell by throwing in a forbidden love story, but here the guy falls in love with a lesbian truck driver and their love and bonding are shown through 'zany' 'wacky' car chases through many expensive sets. Why does he love her again? Because she looks like someone in his dream; wow this is genius, someone pass me more crayons to chew on.
-The Main Character: the main character is a bumbling pathological liar, feel sympathy for him yet? Don't worry you won't, he pretty much is a clumsy oaffish drone that decides to throw it all away to 'follow his heart', and this is basically the jist of the movie. He's getting into wacky chase scenes with the police that is supposed to be funny or informative or something? Really though it just felt like one big budgeted cartoon that took itself seriously, and you're supposed to relate to this clod.
-Other characters: You see his mom a few times getting her face stretched, then you see her in a coffin later in the movie. Wow plastic surgery... BAD?? Wow Terry, that's deep man. You also see Robert Deniro who probably was drunk on the set show up as a 'vigalante air conditioner repair man'. You read that right. He shows up, beats up the two government repairmen, fixes the idio-I mean hero's air conditioner than zip-lines away. It's like Terry Gilliam got his son in kindergarten to write that part. Oh and near the end when the hero's dreaming of his escape Robert DeNiro's character comes to aid him but then gets smothered by pieces of paper floating around. *Cough* *Cough* Wow man this movie's like blowing my mind, beauracracy... BAD? That's like, too deep man, pass me the bong... Other characters show up I guess to spoon-feed the presumably stoned audience the same boring message over and over: beauracracy bad. We get it Terry, thank you, you can show us something new now, yes thanks Terry, we... get it! Moving on now, yes?
-The Stage Designs: The designs are admittably impressive, however with all of Gilliam's works they serve almost no purpose to the plot and is basically just Terry going "look guys, I've done drugs before!". Set piece after set piece is trashed/destroyed as a car plows through it or a character runs through one, and the fact that five minutes afterwards none of the set designs stuck with me goes to show that Terry's 'surrealism' is all bark and no bite. The main character's dream sequences weren't much better either, it was some dungeon's and dragon's fantasy that shows that office drones have dreams/aspirations too.
So yeah, it's all one big lavish waste of time. The script/message is nothing new to think about if you passed high school, the story is strange and uninvolving and I didn't care about any of the characters or the main characters ultimately selfish aspirations, the only part I did like however was the ending, it was suprisingly grim which was a nice twist on things. If only the ride to that part had been more enjoyable.
*Edit* For people telling me I don't 'get' it, wake up, there's nothing to get from this massively overrated live action cartoon geared towards pseudo-intellectuals.
Yeah, I know its a parody of life in an all-encompassing bureaucratic state where citizens chafe under the oppressive heel of The Ministry of Information. But there is no real oppression, only mind-boggling incompetence. The story (and the acting) is so jejune that I didn't know whether to sneer or puke. Brazil not even "funny" in a Three Stooges kind of way! Robert de Niro especially ought to be ashamed of having his name attached to this indulgent silliness.
The movie is so bad, I don't know when I'll have the stomach to watch the other two discs. I suppose since I spent the money, I should steel my nerves and do so sometime. I already sat through some nearly unlistenable and insipid commentary on the film where the speakers tried so very hard to project erudition but instead exuded the acrid stench of pseudo-intellectual pretension.
The three discs came housed in a flimsy plastic dust cover that is already cracking like a piece of cheap plastic left too long in the sun. If you already like this movie, then you will probably not pause to reflect on a thing I wrote. But if you have not yet seen this unbearable nonsense packaged as a "cult classic", then I would recommend that you buy and watch a less expensive package before deciding to go whole-hog as I did.
This rather involved review was born out of a comment I made on another 1 star review. I figured if I went to all the trouble to explain my aversion to this film, then I might as well make it into a full review, just to validate all my hard work in writing it. I'm going to be nicer and give it 2 stars, but I will qualify that later as to my justification for the other added star, even though I would never recommend this flick if you're looking for a good time. There are easier and far funner ways to get lucky than to view this film.
I don't believe this film was meant to be fun or to be "enjoyed." I think it it is just another way for Gilliam to pontificate his pet peeves of the moment, and espouse his own particular tedious brand of world view. To say that Terry and I don't see eye to eye on what are really the portentous dilemmas facing society, way back in the 80's or now for that matter, is a gross understatement. Some souls out there may see weighty prognostication in this film, but then some see Jesus in a grilled cheese sandwich. So what does that tell you?
I know I'm going against the grain here, considering all the favorable reviews that have gone before, but I really don't care for Brazil. Never have. Even after multiple viewings. Yep, even the title irritates me as completely inane, but maybe that was Gilliam's nebulous point. The country of Brazil deserves better that to have a film graced with its name that has nothing to do with that beautiful land. I mean come on, folks, a film named Brazil with no samba dancing at Carnival on the beaches of Rio by beautiful caramel skinned sweeties in dental floss bikinis? For shame! Such a misnomer is... Well, that's a bloody bollocks of false advertising right there, Terry, you adopted limey boy.
Okay, let's get on with it.
So look, it's fine if you think Brazil is all that and a dumptruck full of spuds. That's peachy keen with cream in between for you, but here's the deal-ee-oh, yo'. It seems that when somebody doesn't like this film, and puts up a dissenting opinion, a certain segment of the Brazil lovers pounce on these persons as heretics against the Cult of Gilliam.
Just so you'll know where I'm coming from; this ain't my first (nor the second, third, fourth, but fifth) boring bull-ride with the Brahma Beast called Brazil. (Oh, how I wish those had been 8 seconds or less, but anyway...)
See, the first time I saw Brazil, I was 16, and it was at my friend's house. There were 7 people in the room, 3 boys, 4 girls. I don't really remember what predicated us renting the movie, but somehow it ended up in the VCR. The 3 of us boys were best friends, and what educators now call "gifted but unmotivated." You know the type. When we weren't out doing our level best to relieve our ever-present tumescence with some willing sweetie, we were talking about the books we read or the flicks we saw, while we worked on our cars or whatever filled our free time. Schoolwork was always merely an after thought.
Summers were filled with hangin' out, gettin' a lil' buzzed n' baked, cruisin' in our rides, and watchin' flicks, before gettin' some sugar. The night we watched Brazil the first time, well, we were a little distracted, but most of us ended up asleep by the end of the film, except for me. With a girl tucked in the crook of my arm, I blearily finished the film, and my first thought was "What the Effin' Eff? What a bummer, dude!"
Okay, I hadn't caught all of the film. I don't have any excuse, other than that I was otherwise more pleasantly occupied for long stretches at a time, but I still had the film for two days, so the next day I watched it again with one of my buds from the night before. He fell asleep watching it, and that was in the middle of the day! And no, we weren't drunk or stoned. He just so bored slumber just came naturally. I was totally bored as well, but I watched it again all the way through, and again thought "What the Eff?! Holy Shist! This sucked!"
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I was an idiot teenager. What did I know? Well, I knew I loved Monty Python and Benny Hill. I thought Brazil would be funny like that British fare, but except for a few ridiculously farcical moments, I did not even see anything remotely amusing. Now at 16, I was fairly smart and artistic, but not very culturally savvy. But I knew what I liked. I loved Blade Runner! I loved The Road Warrior! I loved Apocalypse Now. I loved Dr. Strangelove. I did not love Brazil. I was baffled by the title, and by the plot, and the message. What can I say, I was young and inexperienced.
In the years afterward, I have been subjected to viewing the film 3 more times. I went on to college, and I eventually went into film production. In that creative community, there are Brazil fanatics, and when you say that you don't like the film, some of them come unglued and almost foam at the mouth as bad as if you say you're a Republican. Anyway, after a few times of this happening, a friend talked me into another go, so I checked out the film again, just to see if I had been viewing it with adolescent sensibilities, and had been too obtuse to understand the finer points of Gilliam's creation.
So I watched it as a 27-year-old, and guess what? I totally understood what Gilliam was saying. I got it. Even where the obscure title came from. I also saw the artistic choices, and the dystopian vision. I was no longer that testosterone-driven juvenile. And, well, lil' campers, I still was bored. Bored-Bored-Bored. See, to me, being bored with a film is far worse than hating a film. Hatred is a strong emotion. If a film makes you hate, well, at least that's something, but boredom? Apathy? Well, that is inexcusable in my book.
But then you'll say, why did you, dear Jimmy, watch it two more times? Well, I can assure you that it was not by my choice. No-no! Not at all. But cinephiles will do as cinephiles will do, and over the years since my third viewing, I have been at conclaves of production folk that have for one reason or another put Brazil into the player, and I've had to either be rude and leave, or I had to sit through it, and roll my eyes at all the gushing platitudes to Gilliam's so-called brilliance. I expect, before I molder in the grave, that I'll have to likely sit through it again at some point.
The last time was a couple of years ago, when I was 40, and I still was not feeling the supposed mojo of this "sublime satire." In fact, I have a friend who teaches film appreciation at a local university. The department chair is an avid fan of Brazil, and makes my friend show it to every enrolled class as part of the curriculum. I asked my teacher buddy once about how much of a percentage of his students really love the film, and he told me about 10%, while on the other hand, about 65% feel much like he and I in our take-or-leave-it attitude, and last 25% absolutely hate it, usually because they find it so pointless. Now, of course, that is just one small sampling, in Podunk University USA no less, but to me it is indicative of how most Americans feel about the film, and I have to admit, I feel slightly vindicated by his assessment. Of course, that could just be my ethnocentric xenophobia seeping through my charming veneer.
It does seem that Europeans love this thing far more than Americans, but then we Yankee Gringos have always been a bit boorish and infantile, no? Bunch a rootin'-tootin', gunslingin' cowboys are we! Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-Hawwww! Seriously, go to Cannes, and you'll see a good segment of the Continental industry perceive Americans (especially Western ones) exactly that way.
Regardless of that sentiment, here's the thing. It's only the artsy fashion police types that really, Really, REALLY dig this film. The hoity-toity art elite who think the rest of humanity is a teeming mass of unwashed hoi polloi, and only they, The Rarified Enlightened Ones, truly know what constitutes refinement.
Most of us in the biz are just like myself (or maybe it only seems that way from my bias viewpoint.) Our reaction to Brazil is "Meh. Whatever." It doesn't matter what best-of lists the film is on. It just isn't our bag of ex-patriot-American-turned-British tea. Most of us don't care if Gilliam stuck it to the studio system. So what? Most of us know that he has a reputation for thinking he is an avant garde genius, and pretty much saying so regularly, when we all know of course he does have a certain expert skill set, but his schtick is getting pretty old and tired. He's a surrealist, with a dystopian bent; a man boy with severe leftist leanings. (That could describe a passel of folks in Hollywood, ya' know?)
So what's new about that? And in a hundred years will the world, if it survives, look at Brazil, or Gilliam's entire filmography, and go "Bloody, Effing Brilliant!?" Who knows, maybe the British will, but I doubt this opus will be such a monument to his prodigy or a lasting statement about western civilization. It'll just be a movie footnote somewhere, and people will pull out the film infrequently, watch it, and go "People SURE were weird and boring way back in the 1980's UK."
But if this film makes your drawers all gooshy and gives you that certain tingle, or causes you to giggity-giggity-goo in your slickety-slickety-slacks, wow, who am I to deny your illicit pleasure in watching it to your pink parts content?
I just don't like it. The message is stale. It's repetitive. It's boring. The story is neither enlightening, inspired, nor revolutionary, and is actually (to me) an exercise in nonsensically depressive nilism. Life will crush you, no matter what you do, and the only way to escape is death or to sink into your fantasies; thus it it is better to be mad then live in a mad world. (At least that's my take. I'm sure there are other extrapolations from it, but I really don't care. Whatever thay are, they would be just as boring to me.) It's about as exciting as watching an avalanche of molasses rolling down hill in an Alaskan January. Oh, to have the thrill of watching paint dry, or a sward of grass grow, while simultaneously self circumcising yourself as you bludgeon your skull into a boulder, just to relieve the malaise of torpor gripping your brain. I'd rather watch a slide show of Salvador Dali paintings in an endless loop. 'Cause THAT goofy wingnut was an ACTUALLY mad genius.
You want surrealism? Then watch Joe Versus the Volcano. (yeah, I know it's romantic comedy. So what?) At least there's a volcano in that one, and it's funnier (and I mean the volcano.) You want dystopian? Watch Dr. Strangelove. It's much funnier, and strangely (no pun intended) still relevant. Hey, but if you're like me, and want a quick cure for insomnia, then watch Brazil. You'll be out like a substandard filament. Crack, pop, bing! Now change that shee-ot, boy! That is, unless you are with a gaggle of effete sycophantic snobs extolling its virtues through the whole freakin' runtime. (By the by, how many arty-farty critic types does it take to change a blown light bulb? None. They have to call somebody from maintenance who actually knows how.)
It's all subjective anyway. But that said, even though I expect it in the future, I could really do without another viewing of this "masterpiece." Bleh.
Even after all that palaver, I'll be fair and give it two stars for certain artistic aspects and nice scoring. Actually, it's more like a sputtering 1 1/2 dark dwarf stars. I'd give it an entertainment value of a big fat, self important, ego-bloated 2 on a scale of 1 to 10.
Hey, but that's only my opinion, and everybody's got one.
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