Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins, Michael Palin, Ian Richardson, Peter Vaughan, Kim Greist, Jim Broadbent
Written by: Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard, Charles McKeown
Directed by: Terry Gilliam
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 142
Date: 02/19/1985

Brazil (1985)

4 Stars (out of 4)

State of Mind

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Terry Gilliam's masterful Brazil was one of the best films of the 1980s. Jonathan Pryce stars as a weasly clerk who dreams of flying with a beautiful blonde woman (Kim Greist). But in real life, he trudges through a strange, yet familiar, universe full of ineffectual machines and loads of paperwork. As Pauline Kael pointed out in her review, the film uses vertical lines more than horizontal, trapping its characters in steely cages. Robert De Niro steals a few scenes as Harry Tuttle, a renegade repairman who glides through the air on slender cables, stealing into people's apartments at night to fix malfunctioning air-conditioning units. And Michael Palin appears to lend the film some Monty Python-esque absurdity.

The director's cut comes with Gilliam's commentary track. (He's awfully excitable and talks very fast.) The second disc includes just about everything you'd want to know about the film: storyboards, trailers, costume designs, special effects designs, short documentaries, and a study of the screenplay (written by Gilliam, Tom Stoppard, and Charles McKeown). The third disc, however, is the real prize. It features a 96-minute cut of the movie, detailing every edit the studio wanted to make on the film to turn it into a heroic and happy experience. The commentary track by David Morgan provides insights into what cuts were made and what the overall effect is.

The Criterion Collection's Brazil is the king of all DVDs, coming in a monster package of three discs. The first disc contains director Terry Gilliam's "fifth and final" version of the film, a combination of the U.S. theatrical release and the longer European release. Running 142 minutes, the new cut does contain some extraneous scenes, but is always a great film. In 2011, Universal released a bare-bones Blu-Ray edition that contains the 132 minute theatrical cut, rather than the director's cut Gilliam assembled for the Criterion release. Die-hard fans will want to hang on to their Criterion box.

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