Thursday, June 24, 2010

Set Phasers To STUN! or How Much I Love Terry Gilliam part dos

"Port Talbot is a steel town, where everything is covered with gray iron ore dust. Even the beach is completely littered with dust, it’s just black. The sun was setting, and it was quite beautiful. The contrast was extraordinary, I had this image of a guy sitting there on this dingy beach with a portable radio, tuning in these strange Latin escapist songs like Brazil. The music transported him somehow and made his world less gray."

WOW. I’ve just finished watching the entirety of Terry Gilliam’s Dreams Trilogy. It’s a little depressing to think that this man might only have a few films left in him and even more depressing when you looks at the cinema listings at the moment. Maybe Christian Bale was right, and with regard to the film industry, perhaps “professionally, we’re fucking done!”. With these unique, staggering films, while you’re watching them you can feel desperate, overwhelmed and a little nauseous, but you wake up the next morning feeling so blown away and fresh and inspired and changed. Much like the after-effects of a LSD trip. I’ve heard.
So here we go with another Gilliam rant, a Gulf Coast-like unstoppable spill of consciousness spewing from my noggin. What a shoddy post this is! To quote the poet Bale once again, “fucking amateur!”
Brazil is described as a film about the dehumanizing effect of technology, but it swissrolls many of the issues of the current and past centuries into the one vast plot: industrialization, terrorism, government control, technology gone wrong, inept repair people, plastic surgery, meaningless Christmas presents, love, and even modern filmmaking. Its buffet of themes weave together making it’s very concepts extraordinarily haunting. This is not a film that can be put in a box. box perhaps?
It follows the character of Sam Lowry, a stressed technocrat in a futuristic society that is needlessly convoluted and SICKKKENINGLY industrial. Sam's perception of the world alternates between being trapped as a mere cog-in-the-machine in a grey office and escaping from his grim existence by becoming a hero in his own progressively more elaborate dreams. He dreams of a life where he can fly away from machinery and overpowering bureaucracy, and spend eternity with the woman of his dreams. While trying to rectify the wrongful arrest of one Harry Buttle, Lowry meets the woman he is always chasing in his dreams, Jill Layton. Meanwhile, the bureaucracy has scapegoated him responsible for a stream of terrorist bombings and both Sam and Jill's lives are in danger. So his life and these dreams begin to merge together; his dreams becoming more realized and central to him as his life falls apart like a wet cake. Hmm, obviously I’m hungry today..
The plot rolls on until the final 8 minutes and then it..*insert intelligent phrase here* HOMYGAWWDDD11. As Sam’s life hurtles downhill, he endeavours to escape his horribly dystopian society through whatever means possible. The conclusion and especially that final shot is sickeningly disturbing without using any graphic brutality, but it is a very happy ending in a powerfully original and edgy way.
I cannot emphasize enough how shocking and emotionally moving those last few minutes are. I’m rarely moved by dramatic endings and that’s not a macho-girl boast, I just find them detached at times, especially when loaded with slow-mo, long speeches and Galadriel-like-singing* coming from nowhere.
This one, however, uses few special effects and only one piece of music – “Brazil”. It leaves you with your hand over your mouth in a combination of acute shock, disgust, disbelief and somehow admiration. It’s tragically happy and not an overall positive conclusion, butafterwards I felt bizarrely and suddenly euphoric something a film has never done to me. Ultimately Brazil is about extreme escapism and the part each small individual plays in society. YAWN YAWN, I know but from start to finish, it perfectly exhibits the famous 'domino effect'. After all, it only started with a fly stuck in a keyboard. It shows that the ‘system’ isn't great leaders, great machinating people controlling it all. It's each person performing their job as one obedient little cog in this greater machine. Sam is accepts this and in due course, pays the price though his yearning for escapism overcomes this, in a way.
Like all Gilliam films, it’s visually STUNNING, full to the metaphorical brim with symbolism, carefully stylised colours in wide camera shots rather than close-ups. It’s also distinctly claustrophobic, chiefly in the overwhelmingly mammoth and soulless buildings of the Ministry Of Information. Outside, huge intestinal piping intrusively snakes through every elegant living room and posh restaurant.The sets are so brilliantly effective, designed to look like the century compressed into a single moment, compiling elements from the 1920s through the decades up to the here and now. It’s the definition of a retro-future, but it defies it’s potential charm to instead become bizarre and corrupt. Brazil is a smothering jumbled collage of a world set in an evil version of Fellini’s, if you will. But it is not set in the future itself specifically and it’s not set in any country and has nothing to do with the country Brazil. It is instead set in "every part of the 20th century," or "the other side of now."
Gilliam says: “It's all about my own frustrations and my seeming inability to achieve what I wanted to achieve and my inability to affect a system that is clearly wrong”. Like a fever dream I had after watching Donnie Darko, it simultaneously repulses and intrigues you at times, which works in stupendous contrast with Sam’s desperate and impossible dreams.



*If you don’t get that reference you can FUCK OFF.

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