Terry Gilliam has dedicated a large portion of his career and imagination to exploring the cramped crawl space between reality and fantasy. Ironically, the director’s own cinematic flights of fancy are famous for bumping up against the real world — particularly the nasty, boring truths of deadlines and budgets. 1985’s Brazil (R, 2 hrs., 12 mins.) launched what would become a long history of Gilliam’s battles with both studios and Murphy’s Law. There’s no doubt that his travails on Brazil, including a ballooning shooting schedule and a very public fight with Universal over editorial control, left it a bit of a mess. But it’s a brilliant mess — one that’s now available on Blu-ray. The milquetoast Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) is a cog in the massive Ministry of Information, an institution dedicated to creating and filling out its own endless paperwork, like an Ouroboros of bureaucracy. Lowry dreams of another world where he is a protecting angel, soaring through pink cotton candy clouds and vying to save a mysterious woman (Kim Greist). When she enters his waking life, along with an anarchic air-conditioning repairman played prankishly by Robert De Niro, Lowry hurtles into a madcap adventure. Gilliam’s belief in the evil of banality is on full display here, made all the more dazzling by Norman Garwood and Maggie Gray’s Oscar-nominated art direction. (Arterial ductwork slinks through the sets like fat gray worms.) No question, this is Gilliam’s vision, and Blu-ray makes it all look better than ever. Unfortunately, the disc features exactly zero EXTRAS, which, for a work as singular as this one, with such a popcorn-worthy backstory, is almost as absurd as the film itself. B+
DYSTOPIAN FANTASY Katherine Helmond and Jim Broadbent in Brazil (Everett Collection)
Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy; Starring: Robert De Niro, Jonathan Pryce, Jim Broadbent, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins, Michael Palin, Ian Richardson; Director: Terry Gilliam; Author: Terry Gilliam, Charles McKeown, Tom Stoppard; Producer (group): Embassy International Pictures, Universal; Release Date Wide: 12/01/1985; Runtime (in minutes): 131; MPAA Rating: R; Distributor: Universal
Posted June 27 2011 — 12:00 AM EDT
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