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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.
For more about Brazil and the Brazil Blu-ray release, see Brazil Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on November 30, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Michael Palin, Kim Greist, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm
Director: Terry Gilliam
» See full cast & crew
Brazil Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, November 30, 2012
Nominated for Oscar Awards for Best Art Direction and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" (1985) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on this release include original trailer for the film; audio commentary with director Terry Gilliam; on-set documentary directed by Rob Hedden; collection of original documents, storyboards, photographs, and interviews compiled by Criterion and Brazil expert David Morgan; the ninety-four-minute "commercial" version of "Brazil", and more. The release also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Sterritt. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Sam Lowry, the main protagonist in Terry Gilliam's Brazil, lives in an industrial world where privacy is a thing of the past. He is a loner without any friends who dreams a lot – even when he is awake. Most of the time his dreams are so vivid that he has an incredibly difficult time telling whether what he experiences is real or a product of his imagination.
Sam's world is monitored and controlled by intelligent computers that have everyone's personal information. The computers are controlled by an elite group of bureaucrats who are protected by leather-clad soldiers equipped with ultra-sophisticated weapons. No one questions their authority. The few brave souls that occasionally do are quickly eliminated.
Sam works for the agency that collects and processes all of the data that goes into the computers. He is a low-level employee there who makes sure that everything runs smoothly, without errors. He likes his job because it maintains a steady rhythm in his life.
One day, Sam discovers that one of the agency's computers has made an error which has resulted in the elimination of an innocent man - Archibald Buttle. The last name of the man that should have been eliminated, a criminal with a long record, is Tuttle (Robert De Niro). Sam quickly informs his boss (Ian Holm) and he authorizes a refund check. While delivering the check to Buttle's widow, Sam encounters the stunningly beautiful Jill Layton (Kim Greist), who looks a lot like the girl he has been spending time with in his dreams. He attempts to find out more about her and his life spirals out of control.
Brazil is not an easy film to categorize. It seems fairly lighthearted at times but it is loaded with prophetic messages that clearly predicted a lot of things right. Gilliam's vision of a future world where privacy essentially no longer exists and data could be instantly manipulated, for example, is simply fascinating because this world is now here – our personal data is stored in computers operated by different agencies. We are what the data tells we are.
There is also that maddening suspense element in the film that reminds about Orson Welles' The Trial. Even after the final credits roll it feels like there is still a lot left to deconstruct because the fine line that separates the film's reality from the colorful dreams is practically erased.
Two other films which Brazil has plenty in common with are Michael Radford's 1984 and Rainer Werner Fassbinder's World on a Wire. The former is a much darker film, but its observations about an inevitable totalitarian future are very much in sync with those of Brazil. The latter has similar subversive themes. Brazil lacks the depth and complexity of Fassbinder's film, but it compensates for it with an abundance of spectacular visuals.
Clearly, the film's biggest strength is the fact that it leaves little to the imagination. Things could be a bit overwhelming at times because Gilliam's mind obviously operates on a very different level, but Brazil remains an engaging and ultimately rewarding experience that can appeal to a wide variety of viewers.
Gilliam worked on the script for Brazil together with Tom Stoppard (Fassbinder's Despair) and Charles McKeown (Liliana Cavani's Ripley's Game). The fantastic production designs were created by Norman Garwood (Steven Spielberg's Hook).
Note: Criterion's Blu-ray release of Brazil contains the film's 142-minute director's cut. Also included is the "commercial" version of the film, which runs at approximately 94 minutes.
Brazil Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Terry Gilliam's Brazil arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"Approved by director Terry Gilliam, this high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a new 35mm interpositive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS and Pixel Farm's PFClean, while Image Systems' DVNR was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Transfer supervisor: Maria Palazzola.
Colorist: Gregg Garvin/Modern Videofilm, Los Angeles."
The digitally restored high-definition transfer used for this release, which was supervised and approved by director Terry Gilliam, reminds quite a bit about the one that was used for the Blu-ray release of the director's acclaimed Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - it isn't sourced from a new master prepared from a fresh new scan. Naturally, some minor age-related issues are at times easy to spot. For example, extremely light noise is often exposed during the darker sequences (see screencapture #5). Elsewhere a few traces of light sharpening corrections also pop up. Depth and detail, however, are pleasing. There are no traces of excessive degraining. Color reproduction is also good, but I felt that there is some room for improvement as far as saturation is concerned. Generally speaking, contrast is stable (with the only exception being some of the dream sequences where there are some intended minor fluctuations). There are no large cuts, debris, stains, or warps. There are no serious stability issues to report in this review either. All in all, even though there is clearly some room for improvement, this is indeed a satisfying presentation of Brazil. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Brazil Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The lossless track is quite impressive. Depth and dynamic movement are very good, while clarity is unquestionably superior -- sizable gaps in quality between the lossless track and the lossy track from Criterion's DVD release of the film are virtually everywhere. The raid scenes, in particular, sound fantastic. Acclaimed composer Michael Kamen's soundtrack also gets a strong boost (again, dynamic movement is very good, allowing the strings, for example, to truly shine). The dialog is crisp and clean. There are no pops, cracks, audio dropouts, or distortions.
Brazil Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Brazil Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I like Brazil quite a lot, but not for the reasons most of its fans do. While it does look quite spectacular, I think that some of its observations and speculations about the Future are a lot more impressive. Criterion's presentation of Brazil is a good one, but I have to admit that this was a film I hoped would be rescanned for its Blu-ray debut. Still, this is a release worth owning. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Brazil: Other Editions
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• Criterion Blu-ray in December: Clement, Gilliam, Reggio, Nolan - September 17, 2012
The Criterion Collection has announced four titles for Blu-ray release in December. On December 4th, the studio will release Purple Noon (René Clement, 1960) and Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985). A week later, on December 11th, it will release The Qatsi Trilogy (Godfrey ...
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