Hard to know what to say about Brazil, Terry Gilliam's homage to George Orwell, except that I never seem to get enough of it. Though it seems "futuristic" Gilliam intended it to be contemporary. He called it "1984 for the year 1984" and it doesn't take long to figure out what he means. From the almost casual acceptance of random bombings to the loss of personal liberty there isn't much in this black comedy that was unfamiliar to audiences then or now. It's not important what city the story is based in just as it's not important exactly what the date is (for the record it's 'Somewhere in the 20th century, 8:49 p.m. Wednesday'). What is important is Gilliam's razor sharp critique of a world gone mad: where fathers take a break from torturing suspected "terrorists" to play with the kids and bureaucrats get offended when a widow won't accept a check in lieu of her missing husband, who was abducted and murdered by the police due to a paperwork mixup. Jonathan Pryce's Sam Lowry, whom the film revolves around, doesn't seem to get it. Nor does he really care to. He just wants to be left alone with his fantasies and that's the problem. Citizens, Gilliam seems to be saying, have turned to fantasy to escape the increasingly brutal reality of modern life to such a degree that they've forfeited their share of the societal franchise, essentially leaving barbarians in business suits in charge. God help us all.

The film could also be taken as Gilliam's personal critique of the Hollywood studio system. With the Hollywood execs represented by the faceless bureaucrats and artists like Gilliam represented by the dreamer, Sam Lowry. Such a reading is buttressed by facts of the films making as well as the protracted battle Gilliam engaged in with Universal to get his finished movie released. Universal, believing that Gilliam's original bleak ending would be a turn-off to American audiences, sat on the film. With the stalemate drawing on and no release date in sight Gilliam finally went around the back of the studio and secretly screened the film to critics. As a result - before ever selling a single ticket to the movie going public - the film was declared "Best Picture" of 1985 by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Upon learning of this award Universal finally relented and released the film.

The cast is stellar: Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins, Michael Palin, Peter Vaughan and Jim Broadbeant are joined by the aforementioned Jonathan Pryce in the lead role and Robert DeNiro, making one of the few essentially cameo appearances of his career as freelance duct uber-repairman Harry Tuttle.

I recommend avoiding the "love conquers all" studio bs version at all cost. Go with the 142 minute "directors cut" or the 132 minute European theatrical version of the film.

Brazil: Trailer

Reviews of "Brazil"