Brazil (1985)
December 8, 2016 8:19 PM - Subscribe

A bureaucrat in a retro-future world tries to correct an administrative error and himself becomes an enemy of the state. Written and directed by Terry Gilliam, starring Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins, Michael Palin and Kim Greist

Wikipedia has more on the conception, writing, design and editing of the film.

5 stars and 17+ on CommonSenseMedia, 98/90 on Rotten Tomatoes, 2 stars from Roger Ebert:
The movie is very hard to follow. I have seen it twice, and am still not sure exactly who all the characters are, or how they fit.

Perhaps it is not supposed to be clear; perhaps the movie's air of confusion is part of its paranoid vision. There are individual moments that create sharp images (shock troops drilling through a ceiling, De Niro wrestling with the almost obscene wiring and tubing inside a wall, the movie's obsession with bizarre duct work), but there seems to be no sure hand at the controls.
Janet Maslin, NYT:
''Brazil'' may not be the best film of the year, but it's a remarkable accomplishment for Mr. Gilliam, whose satirical and cautionary impulses work beautifully together.
His film's ambitious visual style bears this out, combining grim, overpowering architecture with clever throwaway touches. The look of the film harkens back to the 1930's, as does the title; ''Brazil'' is named not for the country but for the 1930's popular song, which floats through the film as a tantalizing refrain. The gaiety of the music stands in ironic contrast to the oppressive, totalitarian society in which the story is set. What Does This Movie Mean? Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil” (1985)
13 Fascinating Facts About Brazil:
He also said a similar thing to Rolling Stone: “It’s just easier for me to put something outside of a contemporary time, because then I can amend things.” He further emphasized his non-soothsayer status to The New York Times. “People think I am a prophet and that Brazil described the world we’re living in now a few years ago,” he said. “But we were living in that world then; people just weren’t paying attention the way they do now.”

The Nightmare of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil 30 Years Later - "A dystopian fantasy that remains as arresting and prescient as ever"
How Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil,’ Which Turns 30 Today, Will Influence the Next ‘Star Wars’
31 Years Later, Brazil Is Still a Horrifying Vision of the Ever-Encroaching Future

Brazil was "Keynote of the Week" on now-defunct The Dissolve: What Sheinberg didn’t want to accept—what makes Brazil such a wonderful, terrifying, brilliant movie—is that the film centers on that gut-churning ending, which is the ultimate expression of Gilliam’s favorite message. In general, Gilliam’s films are about the intersection between fantasy and reality, and how a certain amount of creative, joyous escapism makes life bearable.

Read Gilliam's screenplay



Aquarela do Brasil
posted by the man of twists and turns (15 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

I haven't seen it in so long. I need to rectify that.

I am not a poetic soul, but for whatever reason the metaphors in this and his (admittedly less awesome) follow up Munchausen all seemed so crystal clear to me in what they were trying to convey that I found the whole thing perfectly coherent and have trouble communicating with people who (like the commenter above) find it confusing. We've both seen the same movie, they ask what something is about, I give a clear answer and they decide I'm full of shit.

There's a subtle joke where a high official mistakes the name of Palin's wife--he says Barbara instead of Alison, the wife starts to correct him and Palin cuts her off to avoid causing the official embarrassment. But in the one or two scenes in which she later appears Palin is calling her Barbara as well.
posted by mark k at 8:47 PM on December 8, 2016 [6 favorites]

Michael Palin is wonderful here.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:49 PM on December 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is part of the HOLIDAY MOVIE CLUB
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:00 PM on December 8, 2016

"Have you got a twenty-seven B stroke six?"

Love this movie. Totally forgot the Christmas angle.
Great post, Mr. Twists and Turns.
posted by hoodrich at 12:26 AM on December 9, 2016

My all time, most favouritest movie, and a line in the sand which Gilliam has yet to cross, and not for want of trying. It does need to be seen in the original English version, not the hacked happy feel-good US version.

Mr. Helpmann: He's got away from us, Jack.

Time for a rewatch, methinks.
posted by arzakh at 4:23 AM on December 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

I thought the 'real' version had a happy ending, to the point that when people complained about the happy ending tacked on I wondered if that was the one I'd seen. It certainly could have been grim, but he really did get away.

The studio version edit just cut out the reveal that he'd slipped into insanity, right? The messes up not only the tone but the last third of the movie or so, which is now in the 'real world.'
posted by mark k at 7:38 AM on December 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

"Don't fight it, son- confess quickly! If you hold out too long you could jeopardize your credit rating!"
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:30 AM on December 9, 2016 [8 favorites]

I have to watch this again. I don't care that my copy is a fifteen-year-old Criterion DVD (back when they went with lowest bidders instead of highest quality). It's so good.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:14 PM on December 9, 2016

Brazil on The Dissolve, previously, which has two more links: Brazil Forum: style, gallows humor, the past as future, and more, and Duct to the future: The nightmare of Brazil never arrived, but it’s still resonant.

(Where I commented my first off-campus college apartment was our own little Brazil - we didn't get our mail key, so we didn't get the mail that told us that our gas was going to be shut off -- we just assumed it was covered in the rent, as the trash was included. So we had to fill out paperwork to get the mail key, then fill out more paperwork to get the gas in our name, so we could pay our bill and get hot water again. Oh, and there was a random duct in the living room, coming down from the floor above, then turning 90 degrees and going into our living room wall.)

Time for a re-watch! And I'll try to make sure I get the UK version (I recall watching two different endings, from whatever copy of the movie we had back then). IMDb has a page on the different versions and where to get them, with spoilers, natch.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:55 PM on December 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I, too, don't really understand how people couldn't get the point of the film. (One of the things that I found oddly endearing about Roger Ebert, even as it was intensely frustrating at times, was how sometimes he could miss the point of a film so hard.) I still use "27B/6" as shorthand for some type of technical or bureaucratic complication that seems to have been slapped onto a system purely to make it more complicated and give its users a false sense of accomplishment at their mastery of it. Definitely time for a rewatch.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:27 PM on December 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

Wow, Ebert, way to miss the point. Even as a 19-year-old dork, I saw this movie as a glimpse of the future. So disturbing and powerful. I haven't seen it in its entirety since.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:36 PM on December 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

"[Jonathan] Pryce has described the role as the highlight of his career, along with that of Lytton Strachey in Carrington. Tom Cruise was also considered for the role." - Wikipedia
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 2:51 PM on December 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I find it a very difficult movie to watch because it feels so true. It's in my top 5 movies. I have never seen the happy ending, and I think I would hate it with great vigour. Gilliam is brilliant. Thanks for posting this.
posted by theora55 at 4:40 PM on November 22, 2017

Criterion just added the 143 minute director's cut!
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:22 AM on November 24, 2022

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