May 28, 2012

Brazil (1985)

(Or, whatever happened to Kim Greist, anyway? She was as lovely in silk as she was in Army Surplus.)

"Care for a little necrophilia?"

...  Terry Gilliam will never top this one, released in 1985.  He has had some moments since, but nothing that comes close to the masterpiece that is Brazil ... Of course, what is the debt that is owed to co-screenwriter, Tom Stoppard? We will probably never know ... Even though Brazil was not his debut picture, except in the sense that he had left HandMade for the big Hollywood studios, Gilliam's career plays out much like Orson Welles' career after Citizen Kane ... Welles and Gilliam certainly have enormous egos and love poking authority (the studios) in the eye ... Welles' battles with Hollywood ultimately destroyed him, turned Welles in to an obese vagabond with a tin can, begging for any scrap of money he could get his hands on ... Gilliam, personally, seems to have worn his studio battles much better ... Is it because of him being a member of Monty Python, a teevee and films franchise that has few rivals in the industry, in terms of both critical acclaim and gold? ... Gilliam fights with everyone, it appears ... Gilliam fought with the rest of the Pythons over his opening segment for The Meaning of Life ... As brilliant as it was, his project came in way over budget, was way too long, and had no natural spot in the film ... The other Pythons, notably Terry Jones, who shared co-directing credits with Gilliam, were furious with him ... The Love Conquers All version of Brazil, a proposed ninety minute cut the studio wanted to see released, is an absolute travesty, an abomination.  But why do I get the feeling that even if a studio now handed Gilliam a blank check and never visited the set, Gilliam would still feel unloved and unappreciated? ... Gilliam seems only able to create in adversarial situations.  If he is not livid with someone, threatening to take his ball and go home, he can not work, full stop ... Gilliam was certainly right to fight for final cut, which was in his contract, for Brazil, but some of his battles were so petty, and he behaved in such an infantile matter (breaking his contract with secret screenings, essentially blackmailing the studio in to releasing the film), that it is a miracle any studio would ever give him money again ... 

... Every single element of Gilliam's encyclopedic, kaleidoscopic, dystopian masterpiece, Brazil, is perfect ... The genius of a futuristic, yet, still hopelessly analogue world is an absolute masterstroke of art design and story-telling ... Never let anyone suggest that Gilliam is not an artist of breathtaking scope and imagination ... His over riding, quixotic, and Gilliam is certainly the most quixotic filmmaker working today, is to make manifest the most improbable delights and worlds, in all their glory and squalor, before the public ... An animator and illustrator, I imagine Gilliam fancies himself a bit of a magician ... As grim as Brazil gets, it is still a work of magic, containing nightmares, as well as heroic dreams ... Who's idea was it to use the song, Brazil? How brilliant was that? Who does not wake up every morning with a song in their head on their way to work? How many of us are in thrall to the cinema (or music or art) as a way to maneuver through our lives hopefully and with joy? ... And why did Gilliam not use Neil Innes and Viv Stanshall, both friends of his, for the End Credits version of the song? That is obviously who they are reproducing, The Bonzo Dog Band? Were Viv and Neil unavaiable? Did Gilliam piss them off, too? ... Why do I love Katherine Helmond so much? What is it about her? Is it her Galveston, Texas drawl? ... De Niro's performance is exhilarating.  Jonathan Pryce should have retired right when Brazil wrapped.  Michael Palin is deviously cold and shattered.  Kim Greist should have been a much bigger star (maybe she did not want to be).  And, oh yeh, what the heck, let's throw in Jim Broadbent, Bob Hoskins, and Ian Holm too, for good measure ... Moments from this film that will stay with me forever:  "Care for a little necrophilia?", then ending the scene with the Busby Berkeley shot; the heart rending scene of the father dragged away, while his wife must sign all the paperwork; the restaurant scene, "Salt?" "Not yet, dear!"; "He was the ghost in the machine."; the office scenes that use the song; the Ian Holm/Jonathan Pryce scene where Holm reveals that he has sabotaged Pryce's chance to move up the ladder; all the scenes with Bob Hoskins and the ones with De Niro, too; all the file cabinets and reams of foolscap; all the ducts; Katherine Helmond; Kathryn Pogson as the hopeless Shirley, who still gets to tell off Pryce, and swear; all of Palin's scenes but especially the one right after his "interrogation", talking to Pryce, completely unable to remember his daughter's name, or even how many twins he has fathered; the Keep Calm and Carry On attitude, the extremely fascistic and absurd notion that terrorism is "bad sportsmanship", "just not cricket, old bean"; and on and on and on ... 

... Gilliam could retire right now and I would be happy ... He has left us his naughty french postcards of animations for Monty Python's Flying Circus.  He has left us his work from the Python movies.  He has given us Time Bandits, Baron Munchausen, The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys, and Fear and Loathing ... And he, kicking and screaming the whole way, produced Brazil, as well ...  And for a supreme asshole that is a pretty decent CV right there ...

All my love, 

No comments:

Post a Comment