Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Return to old Brazil

I was sixteen when I first saw Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. 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.


Mike said...

The first time I became aware of Brazil was on seeing the VHS case in a video store. It had a picture of an armoured angel flying in front of a giant filing cabinet. I was intrigued. It looked different to all the other videos on the shelves.

I took it to the counter.

"You don't want to rent that," the assistant said. "It's weird."

And I listened to her, and put it back.

Jeremiah said...

As I recall, my local video store didn't let sixteen year olds rent "R" movies, so I had to get an older kid to rent it for me.

Otherwise I surely would've taken up smoking.

Mike said...

It was rated "15" in the UK. What's in it that would have got it an "R"?

There's no sex. The violence is pretty tame by the international Arnie standard. There are no bad words.

You're not telling me the US gives movies "R" ratings for POLITICAL reasons, are you?

/hysterical conspiracy theorist blog

This comment brought to you by the verification word "pedibra" lol.

Jeremiah said...

The MPAA works in mysterious ways. Actually, there is some profanity (several shits and a couple fucks) and though the violence isn't graphic, it's unsettling at times. It's a mild "R", definitely.

Hell, Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You has an "R" because of a simple "motherfucka". Our rating system is a little fucked.

Lillie said...

Hmmm..... Sounds like a.... Different movie. I'll have to check that out later then. :) Lol.
Fuck renting it though I think i'll just do it the lazy way and look it up on youtube or google it.

Jeremiah said...

Er...if you're going to watch it, I strongly recommend seeing it on DVD. YouTube won't do it justice at all.

Glad I've sparked your interest though.

Lillie said...

I doubt I will be able to rent it, but I'll try.

Rod said...

That first paragraph was stolen from my mind. I must be able to invoke some copyright law against you for that!

Seriously though, I agree with you 100%. Brazil is like a fine wine that gets better with time.

lynndeepoo said...

I saw Brazil on the big screen when it came out. I'm dating myself, I know. It just scared the crap out of me. I've rented it a couple times and watched it on the small screen but the effect wasn't the same. Every time I see the creepy burger king comercials it makes me think of that movie. Brazil is a lot like "Goodfellas" in that it starts out oddly humorous and slowly morphs into conveying the subtility of evil...only there's no relief in "Brazil." Gotta catch the director's cut. And Mike, always remember to rent the movies that the video store clerk thinks are "weird." If Opra would like it means it's probably pablum.