Sunday Matinee: Brazil

BrazilFollowing up on my latest Hnetflix column, here’s a few more thoughts on Terry Gilliam’s brilliant masterpiece Brazil.

When Gilliam made Brazil it was beset with problems from Universal Studio which produced the film. Gilliam’s previous movie, Time Bandits was a huge hit for him but it was independently produced. Gilliam didn’t like working for a studio and he still hates it to this day. Brazil was shot in 1984 and released in Europe in early 1985 but Universal Studios and particularly Universal head Sid Sheinberg hated the film.

Sheinberg wanted the movie to end on a happier note (spoiler alert, it doesn’t) and fought with Gilliam over the final cut of the film. Gilliam ended up embarrassing Sheinberg by appearing on Good Morning America with Robert De Niro (who co-starred in the film). When asked if Gilliam was having trouble with the studio Gilliam replied “”No, I’m having trouble with Sid Sheinberg, here is an 8×10 photo of him”.

Gilliam further embarrassed Sheinberg by taking out an ad in Variety which read “Dear Sid Sheinberg, when are you going to release my film? Signed: Terry Gilliam.” Gilliam also screened the film at universities which helped it to win the L.A. Film Critics award for best picture that year. A compromise was finally made and it saw a limited release in the U.S. in December of 1985 and a larger release in 1986. It was generally loved by critics but it didn’t fair too well at the box office. The film has since gone on to cult status.

The Criterion Collection had released an awesome three disc DVD set which contained a 142 minute director’s cut (kind of a recut of the European cut), the shorter American theatrical cut and Sid Sheinberg’s crappy “Love Conquers All” cut, a shorter, a happier, crappier cut. It also contained a ton of extras including a documentary called The Battle for Brazil. Universal has since taken back the American theatrical cut and has released that version on Blu-ray but with no extras. Criterion has re-released their set on Blu-ray but minus the American theatrical cut, so it just contains the two cuts. It’s a shame that Universal has no respect for the film but at least they letting the Criterion Collection honour the movie.

Terry Gilliam’s latest movie is called The Zero Theorem and it has that same dystopian feel to it. It stars Christoph Waltz and it’s been getting mixed reviews but then when Brazil first came out Roger Ebert only gave the film a two out of four and complained that after watching the film a couple of times that it was “hard to follow”. I guess I’ll have to wait and see the film for myself before I can judge it but Brazil is a hard act to follow.

Author: Shane Hnetka

Shane Hnetka spends most of his life watching movies and reading comic books, using his vast knowledge of genre culture for evil instead of good.

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