Brazil (1985)


Legitimately one of the most comprehensively realised filmmaking visions ever committed to celluloid, Brazil is a movie stacked with aesthetic bric-a-brac and glued together by madcap paranoia. Surely Gilliam’s crowning achievement and the greatest display of his talents. Here he finally seems to crystallise a tone – equal parts horror and comedy, gift-wrapped in chaos – all his own. There are endless scenes that work in isolation while also being a crucial development of the tightly-packed whole, even if just on an atmospheric or world-building level. Every frame is so cluttered with information to the point of distraction. Brazil demands multiple sittings to really appreciate how much is going on here. But that’s what’s great about it: for all the overwhelming invention on show, it’s the Christmas gift that just keeps on giving.

There are just so many choices and ideas here. For instance, when Lowry finally goes to the floor for Information Retrieval, notice how you can see the breath of all the characters swirling in the air meaning, for some reason, this floor is incubated at a sub-zero temperature. It’s a very funny, odd flourish that was probably lost on an entire generation of viewers who only came to know this movie via VHS, DVD or other SD source. I never noticed it myself until this revisit, my first in HD. What an eye-opener.

I also adore Gilliam as a proponent for physical world building. You can practically feel the crew struggling to squeeze the camera into these cramped sets, to the point where you actually see the wide-angle lens juddering mid-shot from time to time. It’s fucking great. There aren’t enough words for Jonathan Pryce’s amazing physical performance either. He contorts himself into shapes and sizes both with his face and body you wouldn’t think possible for a normal jointed human being. He carries so much of this film, becoming Gilliam’s ideal avatar to pin this rollercoaster of dystopian delight and torment onto.

I love Brazil, truly, madly, deeply. A film that at once feels like the most romantic and fantastic of dreams and the most vivid of nightmares. Gilliam’s masterpiece. Laugh yourself into madness, and sing that title song all the way down.

Watched on blu-ray.

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