Brazil

Brazil

I was lucky enough to meet Terry Gilliam a few months ago.

Well it wasn't really a regular meeting, I asked him a question at a panel at DragonCon in Atlanta. But I did shake his hand (he had a great, firm, handshake) and I asked him a question in front of hundreds of people. He seemed so genuinely interested in what we, as fans, had to say. When I asked him my question, it felt like we were just having a one on one conversation from the way he was intently looking at me. His answers were intelligent and funny. While he was technically there to plug The Zero Theorem, his answers didn't come across that way. I went to see him twice (because the first time I chickened out in asking him a question), and both times he never shoehorned The Zero Theorem into an answer.

I asked him about Brazil. More specifically, working with Robert De Niro. Mr.Gilliam gave me a wonderful response, much longer than it needed to be, telling a great story about how Mr. De Niro was really nervous on his first day and struggled with getting the lines. Terry Gilliam is as great a storyteller in person as he is in his films. At the time, Brazil was my 2nd favorite Gilliam movie (I thought nothing could de-throne Monty Python and the Holy Grail), but after listening to all the glowing praise of Brazil at the convention and with this rewatch, Brazil has become my favorite movie by him.

I love Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but Brazil is so much stronger in so many elements of cinema. MPatHG may have funnier lines, but Brazil has wonderful cinematography, and set design, and an actual purpose. Monty Python and the Holy Grail only held itself up so highly for me because of its nostalgia value and its quotability. Gilliam takes his now honed humor from the Pythons, and applies it on a much larger scale with Brazil.

Brazil's wacky, python-esque, humor works perfectly in getting across the main point of the film, the fallibility of a strong government bureaucracy. The whole film is started from a clerical error coming from swatting a fly. Comical, yet makes a point. Every other minor joke, from the automatic coffee spilling on the toast, to the constant back and forth of different ministries adds to this satirical point. Everything has a purpose in Brazil. It's not only funny, but poignant in a surprising way.

The set design is absolutely remarkable. It his the perfect balance of wonder and technology, yet depressing and bleak. The halls of the ministry of information are those of grandeur with fantastical architecture, yet are saddening through the dark lighting and bland gray colors. The statue "Let the truth set you free" in the middle is just great irony. The movie also never lets the wonder of the sets wear off, because it is constantly changing location.

The costumes are amazing as well. It nails the depiction of the incredibly upper class with frills, but yet makes them disgusting with their overt plastic surgery.

All of these things combined makes the some of the best world-building that the medium has to offer. It's by far one of my favorite settings in film. It doesn't characterize itself by description from the movie, it claims to be "somewhere in the 20th century". It characterizes itself through the movie's wonderful decoration and writing.

The cinematography is great too. I really enjoyed Gilliam's wacky angles. They really added to scenes. The camera's low angle, looking up at the government officials really adds to the whole totalitarian bureaucracy point the movie is trying to make.

The first time I watched it I wasn't a big fan of the dream sequences, but they really warmed on me and showed their significance to the story and the overall feel of the film.

Brazil is just a delight. It's a fun film to watch in general, but is also a genius commentary. It doesn't hit you over the head at all with its points. It has you laugh and have fun, and then gets you to realize that its also a satire. It's a satire disguised in extravagant filmmaking from the genius mind of Terry Gilliam.

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