Brazil (1985) - DVD Review
By Widge - posted 05.13.01 @ 11:54 pm
Written by Terry Gilliam, Charles McKeown & Tom Stoppard
Released by: Criterion.
My Advice: Own It.
Tobias categorizes this Criterion outing as "film school in a box," and there's no better way of putting it. The most impactful element of this set is not the unadulterated treatment of the film, the final director's cut as it's touted, although it's still powerful as all hell. It's not even the second disc, which covers pretty much every conceivable stage of creation of the film--we'll get back to all this. I must deal immediately with the contents of the third disc, the "Love Conquers All" version of the film.
Now when watching the documentaries about the conflict between Gilliam and the suits over this: I have to admit I could understand where the suits were coming from. After all, you play in their sandbox with their toys--hell, they own the toys. I had no concept of what they wound up trying to do to the film, though. The "Love" edition shows you--and commentator David Morgan details it for you--what Hollywood would do to every single film if they could only lay their paws upon it. I honestly believe this. Every piece of subtlety smashed just like the bug at the beginning of the film. Everything that does not serve an easy-to-digest theme, like "love conquers all," is...well, conquered. Granted, Tobias insists that stuff like the Return of the Joker debacle is much more insidious, but here you can see the before and after. And it's utterly chilling. This sucker's worth the price of admission for that and the "Battle" documentary alone.
But...there's more. A crapload more. The Gilliam commentary is insightful and entertaining. The draft by draft, blow by blow breakdown of the script's development is comprehensive to a fault. Everything from the effects to the sets to the costumes is broken down for you with tremendous attention to the whys and wherefores. Every single dream sequence (including many that were cut) is here complete with synopses and storyboards.
If there's any drawback to the set, it's the fact that there is so much text on the screen, it takes a long time to get through it all. What did I expect, though, right? I just wish they had put some option in there to let you set the screens to scroll every ten seconds or so, so that I didn't have to wear out the right arrow button on my remote. But that is a miniscule nit, make no mistake. Also, the set is not anamorphic, but those holding out really shouldn't. It's pricey, but well worth it. And seeing as how it's the most complete dissection of a film on DVD I've seen yet--you just gotta have one of your own.