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Brazil  [DVD]
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In the future, a clerk at the all-powerful Ministry of Information sticks to his ideals and ends up crushed by the system in this half comedy, half horror story from former 'Monty Python' animator Terry Gilliam. Like Orwell's novel '1984', which it echoes, the future is seen from a 1940's perspective. Jonathan Pryce stars, with Robert De Niro making a cameo appearance as an excessively diligent sewage inspector.
If Franz Kafka had been an animator and film director--oh, and a member of Monty Python's Flying Circus--Brazil is the sort of outrageously dystopian satire one could easily imagine him making. In fact it was made by Terry Gilliam, who is all of the above except, of course, Franz Kafka. Be that as it may, Gilliam captures the paranoid-subversive spirit of Kafka's The Trial (along with his own Python animation) in this bureaucratic nightmare-comedy about a meek government clerk named Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) whose life is destroyed by a simple bug. It's not a software bug but a real bug (no doubt related to Kafka's famous Metamorphosis insect) that gets squashed in a printer and causes a typographical error unjustly identifying an innocent citizen, one Mr Buttle, as suspected terrorist Harry Tuttle (Robert De Niro). When Sam becomes enmeshed in unravelling this bureaucratic tangle, he himself winds up labelled as a miscreant. The movie presents such an unrelentingly imaginative and savage vision of 20th-century bureaucracy that it almost became a victim of small-minded studio management itself--until Gilliam surreptitiously screened his cut for the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, who named it the best movie of 1985 and virtually embarrassed Universal into releasing it. --Jim Emerson
On the DVD: Brazil comes to DVD in a welcome anamorphic print of the full director's cut--here running some 136 minutes. Disappointingly the only extra feature is the 30-minute making-of documentary "What Is Brazil?", which consists of on-set and behind-the-scenes interviews. There's nothing about the film's controversial release history (covered so comprehensively on the North American Criterion Collection release), nor is Gilliam's illuminating, irreverent directorial commentary anywhere to be found. The only other extra here is the ubiquitous theatrical trailer. A welcome release of a real classic, then, but something of a missed opportunity. --Mark Walker
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However, what is the point of blu-rays when compared to DVDs? Ah, yes, superior visuals and sound quality, or at least supposedly.
Visually, the transfer is pretty good for a 25+ year old film (though no great improvement over an upscaled DVD).
Audio is another matter. This is standard 2.0 Dolby Digital and compares to the USA multi-region release that is DTS-HD Master and which sounds much better than the UK version (yes, I know it's sad, but I did buy the US version after my disappointment with the UK version).
So, Fox, why is it that you think the UK should put up with inferior sound quality compared to the US edition? Was it really impossible to use the same master? And again, what is the point in blu-ray if the production companies bundle the disc with a sound format that is no better than DVD (actually, worse, my old Criterion edition at least has 2.1 Dolby Digital - well, I did say it was one of my favourite films...).
PQ: There is a healthy layer of grain that was only noticeable when viewed up close. The image was sharp, stable, colours were vibrant and natural, with no discernible print damage. Neither did I notice any scratches, dirt or debris (except on a couple of process shots.) In a nutshell, the film has never looked better to me.
AQ: I can't comment on the surround sound, but the audio through my stereo TV speakers was well-balanced and crisp, with dialogue sounding clearer than any previous version I've watched.
Extras: The minimal extras have been ported over from the previous DVD release. They comprise a 3-minute theatrical trailer, and the 30-minute vintage documentary "What is Brazil?".
So, if you can't play Region A discs then this is a far from disappointing alternative, and a fraction of the price of the Criterion disc. Dystopia has never been funnier.
Now the good news. If you like surrealist cinema, pitch black humour and bizarre imagery (think Lynch here), then this could well turn out to be one of your favourite films too. A sort of Gilliam vision of nineteen eighty four, the film depicts a futuristic society in which bureaucracy subjugates free will and peoples' lives become computer printouts. Love, as in 1984 is the enemy of the state, and Sam is the civil servant who commits the heinous crime of falling in love with a suspected terrorist. I won't spoil the ending, but it is both uplifting and devastating.
If you prefer straightforward story telling and narrative closure then you might prefer to avoid this film. Subjectively I would say this is one of only a few films that has left an enduring impression upon me.
What I would have expected on a blu-ray released in 2011 is a decent soundtrack but all we get here is 2.0 Dolby stereo. The American release has a DTS Master lossless soundtrack but is the shortest cut of the film so it isn't really a decent alternative. It would appear that the best release is the French digibook which not only has nice packaging but boasts the longer 142 minute cut AND a DTS MA soundtrack. That said this UK release will set you back less than half of the sheckles required to import the french disc so if you're on a budget it is still worth the splurge, warts and all. Perfectionists however should head to Amazon Fr and pick up the digibook.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If you just want to sit and watch a film about a world gone mad, you have found the right place. Also great to make clueless friends watch it and laugh as their brains melt form... Read morePublished 17 days ago by Random Pygmy
Bob Hoskins and his assistant Heating Engineer's calling scene - funny stuff. Overall quite an exhausting film in which you feel Terry Jones wanted to get his way what ever. Read morePublished 28 days ago by Mr. G. D. Knight