Monday, March 29, 2010

#21-Brazil (1985)


To even begin with the film of Brazil, you need to know what happened behind the scenes. Much of which is still reported on as one of Hollywood's biggest calamities. The film was written and directed by former Monty Python animator Terry Gilliam. Gilliam's fantasy was bleak, dystopian, and very distant from what modern American's had recently seen in fantasy, with films like Alien. In Europe, Brazil had a running length of 142 minutes, where it was met with critical and commericial success. A major battle between the films creators, and the American distributor cut out major portions of the film, cutting it down significantly to 94 minutes. Gilliam feriously protested this, and without the consent of the studio showed the film to the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, where it won Best Picture, which then prompted the distributor to meet with Gilliam halfway, realesing a 131 minute version, which still performed poorly at the US box-office.

Much like the controversy behind the film, what happens in front of the camera is hard to follow, and understand. In a fictionalized version of Britain, Johnathan Pryce plays a man by the name of Sam Lowry, a low-ranking government official. Strangley enough, Sam constantly has fantasy daydreams of rescuing a damsal in distress. Sam is sent to to rectify a mistake, the governement accidently captured, and killed a man by the name of Harry Buttle, instead of suspected terrorist Harry Tuttle. When arriving at their home, Sam finds that a woman in the second floor, is an exact replica of the woman he has been dreaming about. Through a series of incidents, Sam meets up with both the mysterious woman, and the real Harry Tuttle, and soon becomes a wanted terrorist himself, and has to deal with this, his love life, and his plastic surgery addicted mother, all while trying to fix his air conditioning.

While it may sound like a comedy of errors, Brazil has got to be the best social, and political satire film, since Dr. Stranglove. Terry Gilliam has woven a very intense story here, and it certainly shows. While the film is largly a visual fantasy, and even some story elements are taken from classic fantasy story, the film is actually largly grounded in reality. Nothing seems to be going right for this character, even though he is just a low-ranking official. The film also delves into political satire, on both sides of the pond, with the film being based out of England, and largly poking fun at parliment. But also noting the failures of America's current political system. The film has a strangly modern feeling to it, even watching it now, with major sub-plots dealing with terrorist bombings, drug addiction, and plastic surgery.

"Here's your recepit for your husband, and my recepit for your recepit."

Now, the verison of the film that I saw, was the original 142 minute directors cut. Now, I am not saying that this film is just dark and bleak for fantasy, it truly is dark, and bleak, and even somewhat depressing by the end, especially what it has to say about the current human. Terry Gilliam is excellent at fantasy but what he does even better is reality. And that is where Brazil succeeds for the most part. This is one of the best films I have seen this year. The top three from my first twenty-one reviews definatly include Brazil. And while I did like it a lot, the film does come with a few minor problems, but first with the positives. Johnathan Pryce gives a stellar performance as Sam, and was very good at what the role was. A man, with too much to handle, and tons of stress, slowly unwraveling is a lot harder to do than most would think. Roberto De Niro does a great job in a realtivly small role, not really that small, but for a movie of this length. It is a bit of a switch from the regular De Niro, and a nice switch indeed. One of the best performances though comes from Kathrine Helmond, who plays Sam's insane mother, addicted to plastic surgery and fashion, she provides much of the humor of the film, and much of the satire, which goes hand-in-hand all to well.

One of my minor nit-picks with the film comes from its length, running two hours and twenty-four minutes long does seem to show at some points, and there are many times when I thought: 'oh, I guess that's the end', and it just kept on running. It never seemed to end (though it makes sense now why), but it was sometimes, hard to pay attention. This is not helped by the fact that the story is very, very thick, with lots of characters, and names, and times, and people, and things, and sub-plots all revolving around one person, making the whole thing seem very crowded, this is deeped, again with the Tuttle/Buttle mix-up, that the viewer constantly has to sort out mentally.

Amazingly though, Brazil is still an excellent film. Faults like those usually ruin a movie for me, but Brazil had a strange dreamlike effect on me, and was a thrill to watch. The film has meaning, and passion, and thought, and people we can relate to, all while surrouding itself in an incredible visual package that makes it a pleasure to sit through. Things like convuluted story, and running length seem like small complaints when you look at the picture as a whole. Terry Gilliam has created something special here, and I hope he comes back to dramas, and satires similair to this film. The cast, direction, and writing are all great. Topped off with excellent costumes, sets, cineamatography, lighting, and score. Brazil, is truly, a film to behold.

I Give Brazil A:


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