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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • English Dolby Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 3 Discs
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary by Gilliam
  • 30-minute on-set documentary What Is Brazil?
  • Criterion's original exposť The Battle of "Brazil": A Video History, which reassembles players in the battle over the film's U.S. release
  • Hundreds of storyboards, drawings, and publicity and production stills
  • Rare raw and behind-the-scenes footage
  • Exclusive video interviews with the production team
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • The 94-minute "Love Conquers All" version of Brazil, with all the changes Gilliam refused to make
  • An audio essay by journalist David Morgan for "Love Conquers All" version

Brazil

1999 Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Terry Gilliam
Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins, Michael Palin, Ian Richardson, Peter Vaughan, Kim Greist, Jim Broadbent, Barbara Hicks, Charles McKeown
| Minutes | Licensor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $59.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #51 | Out of print
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: July 13, 1999
Review Date: December 16, 2012

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SYNOPSIS

Gathering footage from both the European and American versions, Terry Gilliam has assembled the ultimate cut of his most celebrated film. Criterion is proud to present its landmark special edition of Brazil in an exclusive three-disc set.

Forum members rate this film 8.1/10

 

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PICTURE

The Criterion Collection ports their famous deluxe Laserdisc edition of Terry Gilliamís Brazil over to DVD in a deluxe 3-disc set, presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on the first dual-layer disc. The image in the case has not been enhanced for widescreen televisions (a 2006 reissue, also released as a single-disc edition, includes a new anamorphic transfer.)

At the time I was thrilled with the image we get here but time has not been kind to it. For a non-anamorphic transfer itís not actually bad, but playing it on modern widescreen televisions makes its flaws more apparent. Forgetting the fact it hasnít been enhanced for widescreen televisions the film is laced with compression noise that can get especially heavy in darker scenes. Jagged edges and shimmering are present, and the image can also look a little fuzzy. Colours actually look fairly strong but flesh tones have a yellowish tint to them. Black levels are also only average and some crushing occurs, obscuring details in darker scenes.

The print is in decent shape but it still features consistent instances of dirt and marks, as well as scratches. Scenes involving optical effects are a little heavier. In all it hasnít aged well and I was always somewhat annoyed by the fact Criterion released this on DVD just before they really started delivering anamorphic transfers. In 2006, though, they released a new anamorphic edition that greatly improves over this transfer, and they also released a Blu-ray edition in 2012. Either one of those would be the one to go with now.

6/10

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AUDIO

The DVD features a decent if unspectacular Dolby 2.0 surround track. It can be a bit flat and muddled when delivering effects and dialogue, but the music sounds pretty good with some decent range, also creeping to the surround speakers with effects. But overall itís fairly average, and the dialogue can be hard to hear at times.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Probably one of Criterionís most famous releases on Laserdisc all of the content was ported over to this 3-disc set. The first dual-layer disc only presents one supplement, an audio commentary by Terry Gilliam recorded for the original Laserdisc edition in 1996. The director, wired up as usual, talks in great detail about his development of the film from story to screen, covering all of the ideas he had including what ultimately didnít make it. He recalls various anecdotes about the production, how he was able to get certain actors into the film (specifically De Niro) and talks about how the film has grown with audiences. He talks a little about the troubles that came up surrounding its American release but he seems to save most of that for the documentary that is included on this set only touching on it. Gilliam covers a lot of material and he certainly keeps the track lively, never slowing down, which makes it a very entertaining track well worth a listen.

The second dual-layer disc presents a large bulk of the extras, most of it text material carried over from the Laserdisc. The disc starts off with Script Development, which presents a gallery of the various drafts the script went through. This rather lengthy section presents the original treatment and its second draft with notes, a first draft written by Gilliam with Charles Alverson, a bit written with Charles McKeown, a draft by Tom Stoppard, and then another version that went through McKeown and Gilliam again. The various galleries, which you navigate through using your remote, present photos of the scripts along with storyboards and concept art. There are also lengthy text notes summarizing the many drafts and the many differences found between them. Itís a bit of a read and very lengthy but itís certainly worth it.

Criterion also includes a 9-minute video segment featuring interviews with Gilliam, McKeown, and Stoppard talking about the script process. Here the three talk about the development of the script and there was some butting of heads as suggested in the text notes in the galleries, specifically on jokes. Interestingly a scene from the American version, where Sam Lowry states ďMy God, it works!Ē after seeing his motherís grotesque face at the plastic surgeons, was one of the things they fought on. He took it out only to put it back in again. But since the scene is missing from the version in this set I can only assume Gilliam decided to remove it again. Stoppard was also annoyed to an extent by the fact the film seemed like 1984, but Gilliam was afraid to admit to Stoppard he never actually read the book. Overall this is a fantastic and very thorough section.

Storyboards presents the storyboards for the dream sequences. It presents nine but ultimately only one of them was filmed in its entirety and it appears sections of others, like the samurai, were added and then spread out over the film. Each storyboarded sequence is presented as its own item on the menu and you navigate through the gallery using your remote. Each section opens with a summary of the scene and in most cases even includes samples from the scripts. You can then flip through each storyboard panel for the sequence.

Production Design delivers a section looking at how the look of the film was created. It presents a number of galleries delivering text notes about the influences accompanied by photos, concept art, and sketches. Here youíll find info on the colours of the film, the various locations used for the futuristic setting, most of the film shot in abandoned factories or in a power station (itís especially interesting seeing photos of the locations before they were altered for the film.) We also get a look at the sets, the designs of the various props, and even the letterheads and various forms used throughout the film. Another cool addition.

Costume design presents a 5-minute audio interview featuring James Acheson talking about the costumes in the film, which plays over various photos that influenced the look along with concept art and the finished designs. He talks about how he developed the looks for the various characters from the police to Samís dream costume and De Niroís rogue repairman outfit. He also talks about the influences of some of the more outlandish costumes, like the shoe-hat.

Following this is ĒWhat is Brazil, a 29-minute documentary made on set by Rob Hedden. It features interviews with Gilliam, Tom Stoppard, Michael Palin, Katherine Helmond, Jonathan Pryce, Charles McKeown, and others. The participants talk about the themes of the film and the look while the documentary also provides behind-the-scenes footage from the set. It also looks at the various effects and sets, as well as location shooting, like the Croydon station cooling towers for the finale. What may prove most fascinating about the piece is the inclusion of information on a dropped sequence called ďThe Eyeball SequenceĒ. It seems to be a promotional piece but itís certainly an above average one, offering far more intriguing information than you would expect from something of this sort.

Special Effects presents more galleries looking at various effects sequences in the film, from the flying sequences to the monoliths and other sequences involving miniatures. As with the other sections you navigate through descriptive text notes explaining how the effects were pulled off, but every so often you will come across a video section showing some behind the scenes material, possibly with a voice-over narration. Another intriguing and highly detailed section.

The Score presents a 10-minute interview featuring Gilliam and Composer Michael Kamen, who talk about the filmís score and how the song ďBrazilĒ (which Kamen considered a Bar Mitzvah tune) became a primary influence for the film. Kamen covers most of the piece talking about how he worked in certain sounds and certain styles, while keeping that central ďBrazilĒ tune. We also get clips of rough edits for certain sequences in the film which were edited together either using music from a Straus or Kamenís score for The Dead Zone. Itís a strong interview, delving deep into the process of the scoreís development.

The original theatrical trailer follows this along with a fairly lengthy photo gallery featuring promotional materials and production photos.

The disc then concludes with the 1996 documentary The Battle of Brazil: A Video History, a 54-minute documentary put together by Jack Mathews covering the brutal history of the filmís production and release. Made up primarily of interviews it still manages to be a rather riveting documentary as it brings together everyone that had a stake in the film including Gilliam, producer Arnon Milchan, and even studio head (at the time) Sid Sheinberg. It begins with how the production came to be and how the money came together before moving on to Gilliam showing his first cut to the studio execs, where Sid Sheinberg apparently flipped out. From here we then get into the studio politics that played out, where Sheinberg insisted the film be cut down and have a happy ending tacked onto it, despite the fact Fox released the film as-is overseas with no changes. We hear from both sides of the aisle on what went down and there are some conflicts to the story, but it seems the biggest issue is that Gilliam wouldnít cut it down to the time Sheinberg wanted. Eventually, after the film was screened for critics (and Gilliam took out a big Variety ad asking Sheinberg why he hasnít released his film yet) Universal released what would become known as the American version of the film to theaters, which was shorter and had a slightly altered ending. This is easily one of the most fascinating pieces Criterion has produced for one of their releases and all these years later I still find it a gripping account. Definitely worth watching.

The third single-layer disc then presents what is easily the most intriguing supplement on this release, the ĒLove Conquers All VersionĒ, which was apparently put together by Sheinberg. This curiosity appeared on television for a number of years, but no one seems to know exactly when it was put together or how it made it to television stations. It runs only 94-minutes and not only cuts out a lot of material (primarily dream sequences) but completely changes the nature and order of things in the film. It also has odd insertions of material trying to clarify things for audiences I can only assume Sheinberg thought were complete idiots. It flows oddly and actually makes less sense than Gilliamís film, which can admittedly take a couple of viewings to fully grasp. It also adds on a happy ending, which is bizarrely edited together from a mix of footage. Itís a complete bastardization of the film, thereís no doubt about it, but itís such a wonderful curiosity that ultimately shows you how important editing is to a film. David Morgan provides an audio commentary that was recorded in 1996 where he goes over the alterations and how they impact the film. Some of this is very obvious without Morganís analysis but I still found it a decent commentary. Itís a shame Gilliam didnít participate as that probably would have been a blast.

A booklet is also included featuring a short essay on the film by Jack Mathews, who worked extensively with Criterion on putting this release together for Laserdisc.

Iím surprised there isnít more material on some of the other versions of the film, like the American and European cuts, and considering all the differing material found in all of the different versions Iím also surprised we donít get any more deleted material. Still, this is an extensive and incredibly thorough set of supplements, demonstrating what Criterion is (or at least was) best known for in their special editions. A rather thrilling set to go through.

9/10

CLOSING

A landmark release for the company, itís still an exceptionally thorough release. The transfer hasnít aged well but Criterion has reissued the film on a new DVD delivering a better, anamorphic transfer, and also on Blu-ray, featuring a strong high-definition presentation. I would ultimately point people to those releases.


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