Finally sitting down to Gilliam's Brazil, it felt good to sink my teeth into a dystopian tale took itself only as seriously as it absolutely had to. Painting on themes from Orwelle's 1984 (okay, it practically IS 1984), Terry Gilliam gives you a vision of the future that, despite all its black comedy, is something truly to be avoided. I mean, the current wealth of post-apocalyptic themes is not without their merit (everything from Hunger Games to The Walking Dead) but it almost seems like the filmmakers are trying to show you a world that would somehow be cool to live in. And you can see this mind control tactic is working when you find yourself sitting down at a table with full grown adults who, in order to participate in an serious discussion, require you to accept the rational probability of a zombie apocalypse. And what is with L'Oreal's "Capitol Collection"? I mean, Hello! Did you guys see the movies? Did you read the books? Better yet, do you know the shit storm that's rolling its way to the capitol in the shape of Mocking Jays part 1 and 2? Should call it the "Target Collection". And that's being lenient.
No, Terry Gilliam probably saw the Fulci and Romero rags popping up and thought, "Well the zombie thing is neat, but not for me." The closest we get to the reanimated dead is the hauntingly effective Katherine Helmond as lead Sam Lowry's plastic surgery-obsessed mum, Ida. Oh boy when you see what her and her friends get up to at the hands (read "scalpels") of docs Jaffe and Chapman and friends, you'll be begging for some good ol' flesh-eating zombies. Ah... the simpler times.
The whole story hinges on the growing distraction experienced by one low-level government stiff, Sam Lowry (played by Jonathan Pryce), while investigating a catastrophic clerical error involving a fly and a typewriter (I know, I have already lost half of you) that resulted in an innocent man being arrested as a suspected terrorist and dying during interrogation (Oh hey! You're back!). Gilliam's distaste for consumerism rings loud and clear in Brazil as Sam Lowry chases madly after the damsel in his dreams (Jill Layton played by Kim Greist - made flesh in the form of the stricken family's well-meaning apartment neighbour) amidst the devotion to cheap consumer goods that saps the world around him. The government, totalitarian and overreaching as it may seem, seems totally incapable of getting it together enough to see what Sam is up to. Of course, as in 1984, just as Sam and his damsel settle down for "a little necrophilia" (calm down, he falsifies her records to indicate she is deceased), the Gendarmerie crashes through the windows and doors to apprehend them both.
The storyline is simple enough to follow along with and I think that's the kind of canvas that works best for Gilliam's warped but charming mind. The truth is, my one paragraph synopsis is way too simplified. And it is AFTER Lowry's apprehension that we see the shit really go down.
Brazil is not for everyone. As a matter of fact, those who spend most of their time on gadgets themselves - concerned more that the gadget work rather than what functions it can perform - may find the subject matter involving a gross over-developed obsession for consumer goods offensive. The flavour is decidedly British - that is to say, very Monty Python-esque. The inciting incident involving the arrest and interrogation death (at the hands of a delightfully macabre Michael Palin) of the wrong Archibald Tuttle is a stunt only a "Something completely different" alumni could get away with. If you have a taste for the delightfully absurd, Brazil should go down smooth. If you require your fare a little more clean cut, rife with right angles, pop culture references, and generally catering to the list of acceptable responses... Well, you best look elsewhere.