Saturday, November 3, 2007


Having reactivated my Netflix account, I spent this evening watching one of those movies everyone can't believe I haven't seen.  Y'know, filling in the holes in my film-seeing history, as it were.

So, I sat down and watched Terry Gilliam's Brazil.

And then I watched it again, with the director's commentary on.  Just to make sure I hadn't missed anything.

Interesting experience, that -- listening to a director ramble on for two hours about his film.  I've only listened to directors' commentaries two other times, I think -- Peter Jackson on Lord of the Rings, and Gore Verbinski on Pirates of the Caribbean.  The two could not have been more different.  Jackson knew exactly what he wanted for every shot, and his commentary was pretty much insight on how he created it.  Verbinski's commentary made it sound like his approach to directing was very seat-of-his-pants, and the commentary was largely his own expressions of surprise that things turned out as well as they did.  Gilliam's commentary is somewhere between the two.  On the one hand, Brazil is definitely his film made from his vision (I particularly liked the bit where he said that, because of his background in animation, he storyboarded a lot of the shots) -- but he also made clear that there's always room in his films for on-set inspiration, so points out a few things that ended up in the film without having been on those storyboards. 

Of course, unlike the others, Gilliam's commentary also made it very clear that he sees himself as a Hollywood outsider and is totally happy to tell every studio executive, critic, and unhappy audience member to go jump -- as he's going to make the movies he wants to make.  Which isn't always going to be a money-making proposition.  And I can respect that -- and it's the right attitude to have when you want to see a film that is more like "art" -- which is to say, you want to see the ideas the artist has chosen to express in the way the artist has chosen to express them, whether you agree with them or not.  It's art that makes you think.  Challenges you.  Makes you uncomfortable.  All that stuff.  (Of course, sometimes, I just want to be entertained, which is when I'll go see a movie where some hot guys blow stuff up.  I'm a woman of many moods.)

I digress.  One of the really interesting bits in the director's commentary (which was made in 1996) is that Gilliam says that people were saying to him that Brazil was ahead of its time and that it is relevant now (i.e. 1996) -- while he'd thought it was just as relevant when he made it (1985). 

Which was really quite curious as I would have said it is more relevant now. 
There was this one bit in the commentary when Gilliam said something about how the government (in the film) needed the fear of terrorism to justify its continued use of torture as an interrogation technique -- and I nearly choked on my tea.  Because, y'know, regardless of where you actually stand on these things, you'd have to be living under a rock to have missed similar discussions in the media today -- only they're talking about the United States, not some fictional totalitarian regime that exists only in Gilliam's twisted head.

I guess the fact that everyone seems to see Brazil as timely is what, in fact, makes it one of those classic films everyone says you ought to see.  Either that, or it says something really scary about society.


hewasolddog299 said...

It actually says both. Now you'll be joining the rest of us who have these very odd, terrifying flashbacks (until we realize they were "just" scenes from Brazil).


pegluh said...

Glad you finally crossed "Brazil" off your movie list.  A strange movie, but a depressingly accurate commentary on our world now.  So, was this the theatrical release with the crappy happy ending or the "director's cut"?  I hope it was the latter.