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August 18, 2009

Brazil (Classic Film Pick)

Brazil-1985-european-poster If anyone ever doubts the visionary significance of Terry Gilliam's once bright genius as a filmmaker of enormous depth and cynical humor, you need only to visit upon his career-topping 1985 masterpiece of surreal satire, "Brazil." Co-written by Gilliam with Charles McKeown and Tom Stoppard, the story is an ingenious blend of sci-fi, political satire, and dystopic comedy. Jonathan Pryce gives his own career high performance as Sam Lowry, a kind of Peter Sellers surrogate searching for the woman of his sleeping dreams and working as a government bureaucrat drone at a soul-crushing job that resembles something out of George Orwell's 1984. There are plenty of other thematic and visual associations made to Orwell's all-too-accurate vision of a totalitarian society where a government error dooms an innocent man and an equally guiltless woman named Jill Layton (Kim Greist) who, although she's deemed a terrorist by a complicit government, is the woman of Sam Lowry's dreams. Sam's desperate attempts to liberate Jill from the government's labyrinthine clutches marks him also as a "terrorist." Gilliam called the film, "the Nineteen Eighty-Four for 1984," and it's telling that other working titles included "The Ministry" and "1984 ½." Gilliam sparks a fierce anti-consumerist flame with prescient pokes at things like plastic surgery and credit cards. However, the film's most incendiary theme is that the media-hyped concept of "terrorism," which went on to become an all-encompassing excuse for every form of war crime imaginable after 9/11, is merely a thought-control fear mechanism for governments to enact carte blanche policies via an invisible (read non-existent) enemy. By the standards of America's unwritten moral code circa 2009, "Brazil" is a dangerous film. Watch it.


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