Brazil

"Hi there. I want to talk to you about ducts."

This is a review for the "Love Conquers All" version of Brazil, a cut of the film made by Universal during their conflict with director Terry Gilliam. They wanted the film to be shorter and have a different ending; Gilliam refused. So the studio made this abomination, which is two-thirds the original length and attempts to offer almost the exact opposite message of the original film (if this one tells us "love conquers all," the original could be understood as telling us "all is conquered by love/fantasy).

There were not only massive cuts which eliminate certain characters entirely, but also alternate takes of certain performances which emphasize Sam's supposed heroism and the Ministry of Intelligence's lack of humanity. Essentially, the cut attempts to rob the film of any ambiguity and make it into easy entertainment. I'm not sure it even works the way the studio wants it to—for instance, Tuttle is supposed to be simultaneously an evil terrorist and a heroic sidekick—but it is a fascinating experiment in editing.

As a movie, it's absolutely awful. I was so upset by it that I began to question whether I actually liked Brazil as much as I thought I did. I wondered if something so bad could be made out of more or less the same material as the original, maybe I was giving the original more credit than it deserved. Upon reflection I don't think that's actually the case in the slightest, it just goes to show how terrible the recut is and how regrettable studio interference can be.

I'm definitely glad this exists as an example of what happens when business executives involve themselves in creative decision-making, and as an amazing counterpoint to what Gilliam created. It serves as a concrete indicator of the difference between creatively driven films and business-driven products, when more often than not we only get to see one or the other. Of course, its existence is only justifiable by the fact that we also have the original to compare to, as the true tragedy would have been if we only had this pile of garbage to use as a road map to approximate Gilliam's masterpiece.

Brazil Criterion Supplements
Terry Gilliam | Favorites from My Favorite Directors
Top 10: 80's Sci-Fi

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