Sunday, January 29, 2012
Top 100 movies of the 1980s: #6
6. Brazil, 1985
Director: Terry Gilliam
Brazil is another film, like Fitzcarraldo, that is almost as famous for the drama behind the scenes moreso than the actual movie itself. Terry Gilliam and the studio behind Brazil, Universal, were constantly budding heads. Universal wanted changes, they wanted edits to the film, and Terry Gilliam was having none of it. The whole in-fighting almost resulted in the film being shelved, thankfully the film, in its intended version, was finally released in December of 1985.
Brazil, again like Fitzcarraldo, is remarkable in its persistence of vision. The main difference is that Fitzcarraldo's vision was grounded in reality and Brazil was all in the crazy mind of Terry Gilliam whose imagination just explodes all over the screen with this film. The cinematography and production design of the film is a sight to see. The towering monochromatic art design gave the future a bleak, imposing image. Combine that with the wondrous fantasy scenes and Brazil is a true spectacle to watch.
What brings it all together is both the great performances from Johnathan Pryce, Ian Holm, Michael Palin, and Robert Deniro and there's the satirical humor and tone to the film which allows it to be as bombastic and as imaginative as it wants to be while also being able to poke fun at itself and what you're seeing on screen. Brazil isn't grounded in reality, it's grounded in surreality in almost every scene.
To delve into the plot of the film a little bit... Johnathan Pryce plays Sam Lowry a government employee sent to fix a mistake that was made when a fly jammed a printer which ultimately lead to the mistaken arrest and death of Mr. Archibald Buttle, when they were really trying to arrest suspected terrorist Archibald Tuttle (Robert Deniro). In the midst of trying to fix this mistake, while investigating Buttle's death he discovers Jill Layton, the woman who has been constantly appearing in his dreams. I could keep going, but fully explaining the plot would take awhile.
Brazil has everything. It's sci-fi, it's fairytale, it's romance, it's comedy, it's drama, it's action, it's adventure, it's everything a movie could be except for perhaps western and horror. The film could be a bit much to handle the first-time around and it demands repeat viewings. Each viewing allows you to discover a different layer and a different facet to the film that you hadn't discovered previously. Brazil is Terry Gilliam's greatest film because as wild and as imaginative his vision is, he is in so much control of the style and tone of this film that it all works to an amazing degree. Brazil is a film from another planet, it's incredible.