Saturday, 11 October 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 301: Wed Oct 29

Brazil (Gilliam, 1984): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.15pm


This film, part of the BFI sci-fi season, also screens on 1 and 3 November. Details here.

Brazil has a fascinating history. Universal Studios were horrified on seeing the original cut Terry Gilliam wanted to put out and after a lengthy delay while studio executives dithered the director was forced to take a full-page ad out in trade magazine Variety demanding to know why his film had not been released.

The version of Brazil released outside the United States was very different from the one seen by Americans, which was drastically re-edited and given a happy ending. The Brazil Gilliam wanted the public to see and the one which will be screened here is a bold and superbly imaginative movie with an ending which haunted me for some time when I saw it on its initial release.

Gilliam himself said he wanted Brazil to be "the Nineteen Eighty-Four for 1984". In many ways he  succeeded, creating a nightmarish Orwellian world in which freedom is limited while fashioning a film which leaves its audience dumbfounded and despairing. No wonder Universal could not face unleashing it on an unsuspecting American public.

Chicago Reader review:
Terry Gilliam's ferociously creative black comedy (1985) is filled with wild tonal contrasts, swarming details, and unfettered visual invention—every shot carries a charge of surprise and delight. Jonathan Pryce is Sam Lowry (the name suggests Stan Laurel, and Pryce wears Laurel's expression of perpetually astonished innocence), a minor functionary in a totalitarian government of the near future; his only escape from the parodistically bleak urban environment (resourcefully rendered by Gilliam through a combination of sets, models, and locations) is in his dreams, where he becomes a winged, heroic figure rescuing a ravishing blond. Of course, it isn't long before the blond (Kim Greist) walks into his waking life. Robert De Niro contributes a gruffly funny cameo as the one knight of honor in the ashen land: a guerrilla heating-duct repairman. With Michael Palin, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Peter Vaughan, and Bob Hoskins.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

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