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Brazil [RSC Film Club 25]


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And now for the alternative Christmas film selection, chosen by @djw180 and seconded by myself, the classic Terry Gilliam surreal satire, Brazil.

Brazil (1985, Dir. Terry Gilliam) | by Rupert Lally | “You Need To See  This…” | Medium

Brazil stars Jonathan Pryce (Pirates of the Caribbean, The Two Popes) as Sam Lowry, an office drone for the Ministry of Information who has dreams of flying and a beautiful woman.  One day a simple clerical error starts a chain of events that shakes up his world and introduces him to a memorable cast of characters as he tries to fight the system.  This film has an amazing supporting cast including Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins, Jim Broadbent, Gilliam's Monty Python chum Michael Palin and Robert De Niro as the most badass heating repair man in film history.  This is a bizarre dystopic nightmare that is as funny as it is unsettling (especially the ending) and could have only come from the mind of Terry Gilliam, and is still, in my opinion, his best film by a long shot.  

Quick note:  there are a few versions of this film, including an awful 90 minute cut.  For the best experience, and the one that Gilliam personally recommends, you'll be wanting the 142 minute cut.

Sorry, I'm a bit of a stickler for paperwork. Where would we be if we didn't follow the correct procedures?

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On 12/6/2020 at 7:43 PM, Con said:

Not ashamed to admit I have no clue what this film is about. I’ve heard the name over the decades but just never really looked into it, so I’m happy I get to watch it now. 

Likewise. I also have heard about this movie often, but never actually saw it. Hope I can find it easy. 

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • Consigliere


I think this is a masterpiece. It's got one of the best ever screenplays and a stellar cast – Robert De Nero as a renegade free-lance plumber, and that's just one of the supporting roles! But of course it's exactly what you should expect from a member of Monty Python's Flying Circus when they team up with playwright Tom Stoppard. I do like most Terry Gilliam's films, he's a great writer-director, this is his best.

I remember first seeing this on TV a couple of years after it's release. It was a bit confusing then but maybe as a teenager I wanted other things from films. It's a wonderfully dark comedy. The basic premise is of a ridiculously over bureaucratic, repressive regime arresting the wrong man because a fly fell into a machine and caused a misprint on one of the dozens of forms they insist have to be printed and filled in, and then the ever widening aftermath. The right man was De Nero's character Harry Tuttle, guilty of fixing people's heating systems without government approval. Jonathan Pryce plays the lead, Sam Lowry, a day dreamer and junior civil servant in the Ministry of Information with no ambition. He just wants a quiet life and to the meet the girl of his dreams. Through trying to sort out some of the mess on behalf of his boss, Ian Holm, he finds she does exist so accepts a promotion simply in order to find out more about her. But in trying to fix the problems and pursue her he ends up on the wanted list himself. Another Python, Michael Palin, plays a torturer in the ministry's Information Retrieval Department. There are numerous other faces from 70s/80s/90s British TV and film comedy and a secondary story line sees Sam's mother (Katherine Helmond) and her friend trying to out compete each other for which ridiculous cosmetic surgery procedures they can have. It's got some great, modest, special effects, mainly from Sam's dreams. There's some good car chases and action sequences. But most of all it is extremely funny, especially with things that shouldn't be, like the torturer's secretary merrily typing up the transcript of an interrogation, complete with the victims screams and pleas for it to stop. The setting is great as well; an unspecified time in the 20th century. Most people dress like they are in some 40s/50s film noir. Everything is kind of low-tech pretending to be high-tech, like Sam's ridiculously over engineered automatic breakfast machine that completely fails to make breakfast. And the ducts! There is a whole section of bureaucracy dedicated to heating ducts and their maintenance – cue Bob Hoskins as an official government approved heating engineer come to fix Sam's ducts, that actually don't need fixing because Tuttle's already fixed them. The ending is great as well. I won't spoil it by saying too much but it does leave you wondering is it a happy ending or not or maybe all just a dream?


10 / 10

Edited by djw180
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  • 2 weeks later...

Brazil (1985)

In Dj's review, his summary is beautiful regarding the story. On paper it really sounded awesome, except the actual film goes off-road to show the story. 

Took a long time to get to the end but finally made it. That is how I felt the last 45 minutes of this film. I'm almost certain i watched an extended version because it felt like it was extended on purpose to change the ending. I did look that up and learned that I watched the directors cut since he wanted the unhappy ending, which I certainly loved. 

The production design is at it's 1985 best here and it reminded me of the world from the film "The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)"  so I was ready to dive in to this crazy world with all the gadgets and steampunk look, and I believe this film inspired what would become Steampunk fashion movement. In Brazil, the attention to detail was superb as was the acting. This film is rich in detail as every prop has nuance, every set has character, and some sets are right down jaw-dropping amazing and way ahead of the time and honestly, it puts some modern stuff to absolute shame!! I mean, i watched "Wonder Woman 84 (2020)" recently and the wire (flying) effects were BAD in that film, it really takes you out of the immersion cause your eyes catch the flaws and your brain is telling your eyes, "something isn't right here"  as you watch Wonder Woman clearly on a wire jerking her up awkwardly...meanwhile all the flying scenes in Brazil look TREMENDOUS!!!! I was like wow....Brazil 1985 vs WW84 2020 flying effects and there is no competition whatsoever and it's things like that which make Brazil so much fun to experience because the visuals are worth your time.  The script had a lot of funny moments but I was left with the feeling that I missed out on a lot of the subtle jokes but I did get the satire of materialism and distraction through consumption, so I found the satire excellent and I can imagine just how much more impact it had in 1985 when America was at its peak of mass consumption and materialism but it was still relevant today. I think that is why the film is revered so much because at the time of its release, the satire was white hot and super timely. It's 2021 and we know how materialistic the world is and how things turned out, so that specific message isn't going to shake the millennial up in 2021 but there are other messages that could, like the plastic surgery element. I found that to be the funniest part, the mother and her BFF competing to see who could look younger and they provided the best part of the film for me, the funeral scene, when he flips the coffin over and the contents spill out, i thought that was perfectly executed, darkly-hilarious, and my favorite scene in the film. 

I wish there was more of that whole plastic surgery thing and less love story cause that is where the film lost me, and when it began to feel like the convoluted story in Dune (1984) where characters and situations just show up with no explanation or purpose.  I began to feel like some of the editing came out of nowhere with little to no context, I mean towards the end, I even said out loud...."Did his mom turn her face into the girl of his dreams through a weird coincidence?, Oh sh*t, was he sleeping with his mom cause of the plastic surgery?" and then we see him sitting there at the very end and it confused me even further because now I had to sort through my mind to find clues that would confirm that the entire experience was all in his head and from what point does the delusion begin. As I said, I don't mind the unhinged story telling as long as I can follow it without scratching my head. I liked the script for its humor but I felt there were too many thematic elements in it. There is comedy, drama, horror, gore, romance, mystery, sci-fi in the script and that made the story feel disjointed for me, for example, sometimes the cops seem real threatening and at times they look like bumbling idiots cutting through the walls. 

Final Verdict....3/5....Brazil is an art film way ahead of its time with gorgeous cinematography, set design, and solid acting. But i found the story hard to like because of all the filler that I felt weighs the film down and muddles a simple story concept that takes too long to arrive at its conclusion. Beautiful visuals whether what is on screen is tame or disturbing. Imaginative futuristic world full of satire that was ahead of its time regarding so many of our current societal follies. Its many deep allegorical elements really could be made into a TED Talk. I just didn't love it or perhaps it's brilliance was beyond my current I.Q.  or maybe I didn't get invested in the main character or any of the characters except the plastic surgery ladies whose storyline I found the most tragic, funny, and interesting. Perhaps additional viewings would increase my score but for now I can't see where learning anything new about the film would make that difference. I guess I just find my own cautionary tale of dangerously following your heart more interesting than what Sam Lowry went through, because I don't know when his reality stopped and his altered state began or I didn't find the stakes high enough to care to sit through 2.5 hours of it. I wish I could have loved it for more than its visuals and filmmaker's ambitious vision.

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