Nuts About Brazil
People who love Brazil love it passionately, and they're not wrong. The density of imagery in this 1985 absurdist tech noir richly rewards multiple viewings, suggesting just how deep a debt director Terry Gilliam owes production designer Norman Garwood and his art directors John Beard and Keith Pain for the film's used-future look. Set "somewhere in the 20th century," Brazil follows the fortunes of a petty bureaucrat in an urban ruin who inadvertently joins the resistance. This isn't Sleeper -- there are real bullets in the guns, and blood near the torture chair.
The merits of this satire are almost too well known to revisit here, but the two other Gilliam films screening at the Castro this week help place it in better context. There's little positive in the fantasy world of Brazil for its heroes to cling to. In Twelve Monkeys (1995), however, a sentimental love for life in its moment-to-moment reality inspires Bruce Willis' actions as a displaced time traveler from a harsher realm. This is sadly missing from Gilliam's most recent film, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), a dispiriting failure -- in part due to its negation of the positive vision of an alternate society discernible amid the dystopian slapstick of Gilliam's other work. While Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) in Brazil can escape into his heroic fantasies, and the bewildered Willis in Twelve Monkeys can visit a better past, the counterculture folk heroes offered up in the persons of Johnny Depp as Hunter Thompson and Benicio Del Toro as his Samoan attorney merely stumble around stoned, insulting if not terrorizing the ordinary human beings they encounter.
Brazil (the European cut) screens Thursday through Monday, April 29-May 3, at 1, 4, 7, and 9:45 p.m. Twelve Monkeys screens Tuesday, May 4, at 7 p.m. and Wednesday, May 5, at 2:10 and 7 p.m. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas screens Tuesday, May 4, at 9:30 p.m. and Wednesday, May 5, at 4:40 and 9:30 p.m. All screenings are at the Castro, 429 Castro (at Market), S.F. Admission is $6.50; call 621-6120.