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Brazil

A film by Terry Gilliam that depicts a bizarre, totalitarian future.

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"You touched me. Nobody touches me."

  • Sep 16, 2012
Rating:
+5
**** out of ****

Apparently, some people actually doubt the genius of Terry Gilliam. Here we have one of the most obviously imaginative minds working in the film industry of today and yesteryear, and people literally have the nerve to challenge his brilliance. Maybe they find themselves turned off by what he's been directing recently (which really isn't all that bad, with the exception of the tedious and boring "Tideland"), although that alone shouldn't be good enough reason for them to shut him out completely. Perhaps those people should go back and watch his earlier films. I don't know where I'd start. Maybe at the beginning. Or maybe at arguably his most famous work next to his debut - which was "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" - which would have to be 1985's "Brazil".

The year of release for this film is beyond ironic. It is an Orwellian comic fantasy that sees Gilliam using an over-the-top near-futuristic scenario as his canvas of choice. As far as films go, they don't get much more imaginative, funny, and entertaining as this. It appeals not only to my recently-developed fascination with big-scale futuristic storytelling, but also my admiration for absurdist humor, social satire, and artistic expression through visual indulgence. It's sort of like a gonzo roller-coaster ride. It is twisty, perplexing, multi-layered, exciting, ambitious, and particularly emotive. Simply put, I absolutely adore it. And even though I've seen most of Gilliam's films, I've never seen anything quite like this. He almost always brings something new to every film.

The story takes place in the future; where everything is overly complicated save for restaurant menus. It starts with a fly, which is swatted and then ends up in a nearby printer, screwing up a file that was currently printing. The file concerned the interrogation and death of the suspected terrorist Archibald Tuttle, although the misprint caused the name Buttle to appear instead. There is indeed an Archibald Buttle, and he is taken away from his family on Christmas Eve shortly. A young man by the name of Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) is assigned by his boss Mr. Kurtzmann (Ian Holm) to look into the situation and in turn fix what he can of it. Sam is a privileged but unhappy fellow who finds solace only in dreams, where he is a knight in shining armor (with wings) who seeks to save a beautiful maiden.

When Sam goes to the home of Mrs. Buttle, he spots her neighbor Jill Layton (Kim Greist). This woman intrigues Sam because she is quite literally the girl he's been seeing in his dreams all along. He follows her, tries to make contact; all without being aware that she's currently being considered as a reference or a friend of Tuttle (Robert De Niro), who is now a rogue air conditioner repairman (air conditioning is very important in this future). To get more information about Jill, Sam must accept his mother's promotion to Information Retrieval, where he will have access to her files. His mother, Ida (Katherine Helmond) is thrilled that her son is finally showing signs of ambition, but is nonetheless still lost in the world of plastic surgery addiction.

And so the romantic conquest is set in motion. Sam breaks the rules so that he may be with Jill, albeit only for a single night. In the end, it's a sweet and touching love story; although not only a love story. "Brazil" is, above all, a film that satirizes bureaucracy (since if you know the film's history and Gilliam's own, as a filmmaker, you'll know how much he must hate the very concept). Futuristic films are often kind of frightening in what is realized - what we could become - although Gilliam is easy on the audience and provides us with something that is certainly dark underneath it all but comedic enough to also be sort of light-hearted. It's most obvious inspiration is "1984", hence the earlier mention of George Orwell. But "Brazil" itself inspired a lot of fellow artists and straight-up people; so Gilliam himself has his own legacy to claim.

This film has some of the most bizarre images ever committed to celluloid. Some of the most famous in "Brazil" include the scene with the plastic surgeon (Jim Broadbent) who pulls Sam's mother's face like taffy, the baby-like masks worn by the monsters that appear in the dream sequences, and then the dream sequences themselves, which celebrate the power of dreams and often involve Sam fighting off monsters, with his maiden in a cage that floats in the air, grounded only by ropes that are often loose. The imagery is both nightmarish and playful at the same time; Gilliam seeks to entertain, but you also get the sense that these things mean a lot to him. Even though the production had its share of problems, I think Terry got what he wanted (which is more than I can say for two of his more recent outings, if you know what I mean) and the visual style is 100% Gilliam.

This is one of those films that inspires me to want to become a filmmaker that pays extreme attention to even the most subtle of details in every little shot. This is one of those films that makes me want to be the most imaginative man I can be in life. It's so beautiful, so magnificent; so unforgettable. Watching it is an ecstatic experience that I personally react very strongly to. Every time I enter this world through the clouds, set to Geoff Muldaur's "Aquarela do Brasil", I'm in a state that can only be described as sheer heaven. So with that, I would say "Brazil" is an essential film. But know that it's not fulfilling to watch it simply once. If that notion annoys or perplexes you, it would either be wise to turn back or watch it anyways knowing you have been warned by yours truly. Over and out; my complicated had a complication.

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More Brazil (movie) reviews
Quick Tip by . October 07, 2010
posted in Cult Cinema
The 4 rating is for the director's cut, not the original release. The original release rates at a -2.
Quick Tip by . January 24, 2010
A delightfully weird vision of a totalitarian Britain, in which a government employee falls in love with a trash removal woman. Hilarious!
review by . March 09, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Themes, imagery, very engaging set/scenery.       Cons: Acting is weak.  Story will be too esoteric for many.      The Bottom Line: Terry Gilliam and Tom Stoppard are masters of the absurd "limits" of humanity.  Brazil is what happens when they get together.  Yea for some, nay for many (unfortunately).      Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. Terry Gilliam’s …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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