Big Tim’s review published on Letterboxd:
"Care for a little necrophilia?"
As a film that stands as a thumb right in the nose of totalitarian governments and inefficient bureaucracies, Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" is a strange, gorgeous journey that is a near-perfect film. I'm pretty much a fan of the entire experience of this film, but it lost me about mid-way through, story-wise, and I found myself just marveling at the look of this very original, engrossing movie.
I swear I didn't check out of this film, I just wasn't a fan of how the trajectory of the story turned at about the halfway point. For the first half hour, I was thoroughly entertained by Gilliam's wacky, off-the-wall character development and comedic writing and the actors' superb performances. I wasn't a huge fan of how the story sort of meandered in the second act and ended up being a love story. I was more a fan of the social satire and comedy being presented. But anyway...
The aesthetics of this movie flat-out blew me away. Blew me away. This is perhaps the greatest art direction and set design I have ever seen in a movie. Norman Garwood, John Beard and Keith Pain deserved to be commended for this. Their work on this movie is utterly breathtaking as I felt every single set lived, breathed, had age and had actually been used. Things are in various states of disrepair, gears and cogs shoot out of walls and walls explode in chaos. Dystopian future societies are hard to create on screen anyway but this movie took a different angle on that, setting this story in a sort of retro-future and giving the whole movie a look as if '80s technology never evolved and everything is in a state of decay. Just utterly brilliant as every scene had one or a hundred cool little things that gave it so much depth of character.
It's weird but the things I could've done without in this movie were the acting and the story. You'd think those things would be paramount to any sort of enjoyment of a movie. But this movie hooked me with its visuals from the get-go, especially the scenes of Sam Lowry's daydreams. In true bizarre Gilliam fashion, those scenes were delightfully strange and looked beautiful. A lot of the scenes in this reminded me of Gilliam's "The Fisher King" in the way Parry's hallucinations of his battles with the Red Knight in that movie mirrored that of Lowry in this one.
Michael Kamen's manic, at times scatterbrained and sweeping musical score gave this movie life and vitality, especially during the dream sequences.
Gilliam plays with some cool visuals and different camera speeds and unconventional cuts in this movie, and it just adds to the surreal nature of the entire experience. He also injects some really cool references to old Hollywood noir, especially in the choices made by James Acheson's amazing costume design, and the use of voiceover. At times, it felt like Gilliam was tipping his hat to movies like "Double Indemnity" and old-school gangster flicks and that was really nice to see.
I kind of have a weird relationship with Gilliam movies. I go in expecting to be weirded out — and I usually am — and I like seeing surreal/mindfuck kind of movies but I always end the experience just short of raving about his work. Outside of "Holy Grail" and "12 Monkeys" (which I haven't seen in a while, but remember liking a lot), his movies are just short of 5 stars, for me, usually. This one might be his most bizarre movie I've seen yet, and through its kind of annoying problems it has, I still thoroughly enjoyed the experience for a couple of reasons:
1. Original idea. I love social satire in cinema and this is a cool, interesting take on some pretty tried and true themes.
2. The visuals, my God, the visuals.
3. The set pieces. Some of the best I've ever seen.
4. The music/costumes rounding out an aesthetically beautiful film.