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12.05.2002

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Brazil
1985
Directed by: Terry Gilliam
Written by: Terry Gilliam, Charles McKeown, Tom Stoppard
Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond, Michael Palin, Kim Greist
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: Comedy (no, really)
Watch it when youíre in the mood for something: artsy-fartsy, fantastical, whimsical
The critic says: Ĺ// 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: /5

Plot synopsis A fly annoys a worker in a government office, gets swatted and falls into a machine thatís in the middle of printing out an arrest warrant for terrorist Harry Tuttle. The errant fly causes the machine to insert a "B" in place of a "T," and as a result, innocent Harry Buttle gets arrested in a most over-the-top manner, then ends up dying in prison. Unfortunately before a rather unimportant office worker, Sam Lowry, spots the error. As he works to rectify the situation, Lowry discovers a lot of frightening truths about his society, and where his place in it lies. Soon Lowry finds his quest has expanded well beyond its original mission of correcting a bureaucratic blunder. He befriends a smuggler, Jill, with whom he falls in love, despite the fact that his constant confessions of adoration do little to sway her into returning the sentiment. And as his dull existence begins taking on some color, he finally makes some changes in his own life, such as standing up to his mother, a woman obsessed with plastic surgery and image. But the thrill of excitement quickly turns to fear as Lowry bumbles his way through everything, making enemies left and right, and taking down some of those around him while he's at it. Lowry eventually becomes an enemy of the state. Itís then that he befriends terrorist Harry Tuttle (in a brilliant cameo by Robert De Niro), whose offenses, it turns out, consist largely of such horrific acts as fixing his own plumbing without filling out the proper paperwork. As Lowry learns where his loyalties really lie, he also discovers the ugly nature of the bureaucracies that run his world and the true horror of what it means to question authority in this society.

Review One small fly, one little clerical error, and we're off on one of the most surreal and dreary looks at modern life this side of...well, anything. Thanks to co-writer and director Terry Gilliam, Brazil offers a vision of an Orwellian society thatís both charmingly whimsical and startlingly disturbing, often in the same scene. Itís a world in which mysterious terrorists blow up shopping malls and restaurants on a daily basis, and upper-class women -- obsessed with looking young -- risk their lives for questionable plastic surgery. Meanwhile, forms and protocol have so overwhelmed everyone that even simply fixing an air conditioner requires several rounds of paperwork and months of waiting. This world that Sam Lowry inhabits is stark, bland, and fascinatingly horrifying Ė itís no wonder that Lowry fights so hard to rise above it all. You want to root for Lowry as he tries to live out every office droneís dream of stickin' it to the man. But then you don't want to root for him because he's so bad at it. Some scenes are very funny, such as one in which some workers get a closet-sized office with only half a desk because the other half belongs to the worker in the office next door, and a childish game of who can own the most desk ensues. Brazil is also visually stunning -- even the scenes of drab city life are beautiful to look at, with strange and fantastic things happening in every corner of the film. In a visit to a factory, for example, a nice little house, complete with flower boxes in the window, is being moved by crane to make way for the ever-expanding factory. The only downfall of this movie is that it tries too hard to do too much. There are many ideas in this film and each one gets screen time, with the result that the movie sometimes flies off on tangents that really go nowhere or make little sense. But in the end, it's worth your patience. A truly strange film that melds grandiose ideas with wonderful visuals, Brazil will take you on a very puzzling Ė and very interesting -- ride.
óreviewed by Mike Weaver

Mike Weaver is a software trainer in Dearborn, MI, and an avid film buff who genuinely misses Gene Siskel, can talk like Yoda, and has actually watched Wyatt Earp starring Kevin Costner (though it took a while for him to recover).

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