I was sixteen when I first saw Terry Gilliam’sBrazil. I knew the story behind the release of the film and I was already a fan of Time Bandits and Baron Munchausen, so my expectations were perhaps impossibly high. It wasn’t quite the masterpiece I hoped it would be. Some of the gags seemed a bit corny, like the employees watching old movies behind their employers back, and the narrative seemed a bit messy, lagging in a few significant places. Eh, what did I know?
I’ve watched it many times since, once on the big screen, and saw it again last night with a friend. It definitely gets better each time. The director’s cut (which is essentially the European cut) is a major improvement over the first version I saw, and though I’ve had the DVD for years I’m always surprised when the new scenes come up. The interrogation following Sam’s arrest is one of the most effective scenes in the film and I can’t believe it’s missing in the American cut.
The gags don’t bother me anymore, and I think my problems with the “narrative” can now be traced back to the casting of Kim Greist as Jill Layton, whose wooden performance sucks the juice out of the plot involving Lowry’s obsession with her. It had the makings of a screwball Vertigo with a nightmarish backdrop and an even bleaker ending (maybe I'm the only one who thinks that's a good idea). Apart from that, the director’s cut does fill in some plot details that we’re better off having, paying off scenes or setting them up, and leaving ambiguities in places where it should be, like the whole terrorist threat.
One of the things that still bugs me is Michael Kamen’s score. It has some nice variations of the “Aquarela do Brasil” song, but I hate the tacky saxophone music that comes in every so often to remind us we’re in an 80’s revision of a 40’s noir universe. Apart from that, the film has aged incredibly well.
I don't give star ratings. Just see the thing if you haven't.