The issues surrounding the production and release of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil may be more talked about than the content of the film itself. Brazil’s journey to the screen includes trials and tribulations like budget overruns, alternate cuts, delayed releases, Gilliam taking out a newspaper ad to pressure the studio to release the film, the LA Film Critics Association naming the then unreleased film as Best Picture and so on. There’s so much to the story of Brazil’s release that it filled a book: The Battle of Brazil: Terry Gilliam v. Universal Pictures in the Fight to the Final Cut. Check it out at your local library to learn more about this very unique legend of cult cinema, but don’t lose track of the film.
Jonathan Pryce stars as Sam Lowry, an oppressed technology troubleshooter trapped in a dank, grey Orwellian bureaucracy. Like other notable Gilliam characters, Sam is a daydreamer with an incredibly vivid imagination that he flexes to escape his miserable day to day existence. In the course of his job Sam gets mixed up in a catastrophic printer error that caused a Mr. Harry Buttle to be wrongly executed for suspected terrorism rather than renegade HVAC repairman, Mr. Harry Tuttle (Robert De Niro). Sam gets hooked up with Buttle’s surviving family and neighbors, who are now terror suspects by association. The bureaucracy can’t allow people who have been screwed by the system to get organized so the heat comes down on Sam and friends.
While De Niro turns in a great off type performance as master of the ducts with a killer screwdriver the real star of the film is the visuals. Gilliam’s amazing eye makes you feel the oppression and futility of the bureaucracy. The surrealistic set design and photography result in visceral satire that is impossible not to relate to modern life.