Geez, Mr. Gilliam. What the phantom menace are you doing to my head? Like…every time! …Not that I’m complaining.
Brazil has been on my watchlist from the Criterion Collection for quite some time. I respect the filmmaker and am tickled by the cast, therefore, I expected nothing short of a delightful movie to sit back, watch, and enjoy without having a rod shoved in my ear to poke at my brain. …Okay, not that extreme. But this movie deserves to be seen more than once, is all I will say without spoiling. In a nutshell, the film is a dystopian science fiction movie directed by Monty Python Terry Gilliam, featuring (a young) Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Kim Greist, Michael Palin, Katherine Helmond, Bob Hoskins and Ian Holm. The plot…uh…pulled straight from imdb.com: “A bureaucrat in a retro-future world tries to correct an administrative error and himself becomes an enemy of the state.” (Running Time: 142 minutes)(Rated R for some strong violence)
The film’s focus is on Sam Lowry (Pryce), a man desperate to find a woman (Greist) who appears in his dreams and fantasies while he is working in a mind-numbing job and living a life in a dull world, laid in a consumer-driven city where there is an over-reliance on whimsical machines. Brazil‘s bureaucratic, totalitarian government is a “fond memory” of the government and politics in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, except that it has a buffoonish, slapstick quality and lacks a Big Brother figure.
If none of what I’m saying makes sense, the trailer clarifies a lot here.
Gilliam’s artistry lies in the visuals. Every frame is a curious painting of a wild and wacky world he delivers on the big screen. I love the dream sequences in the film. Well, I enjoyed the whole picture. But the portions that are exceptional are the first thirty minutes, the dreams, and the last twenty minutes. These are the parts that stood out to me. He is wise to garner the talents of Charles McKeown and Tom Stoppard to help write the screenplay. You can sense that Gilliam was bouncing dystopian visuals off his writer-friends and they helping tie it all into the structure of the plot, way back when.
Although the acting was fun, I felt that Greist’s part was–miscast. Although she was fine, there was something lacking. But in further research, it sounds like Gilliam and her clashed and a ton of her screen time was inevitably cut from the finished film. So, maybe it’s merely the missing scenes. But Pryce does a great job, Palin is great, and De Niro plays a different De Niro (than the norm). Also, Ian Holm is awesome. Can’t go wrong with them.
The sets are outstanding! I know a lot of it is practical camera effects, but they look artistically stunning, making Brazil a breathtaking visual trip.
In the end, I don’t recommend this movie willy-nilly. Yet another movie you have to know the director and his style in order to enjoy the film to its fullest extent. Start with Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King (one of my favs!). But in the end, I’ll give this movie a B. Maybe a high B.