I love it when film reviewers have massive balls and make sweeping statements about what so-and-so's best film was, etc. These ten films are amazing. Straight up.
I don’t know if you asked me about Terry Gilliam I’d say “he’s one of my favorite directors”. I don’t know that I think of him as the kind of voice I did at one point in my life. Because there was a time when Gilliam was better than Kubrick to me. While talking about 12 Monkeys I did say that lumping Gilliam in with Burton and Juenet is too easy, it’s not like they haven’t followed in his footsteps every step of the way. John Cleese’s big criticism of Gilliam from the beginning was that he was too concerned with the visual, and that he let everything else suffer, is apt. In his worst films, that is exactly the problem. Of course, when I watch Brazil, I can see why I would feel that way.
Brazil is one of those movies, like The Shining, where you find yourself comparing real life to it constantly. Brazil is partially about fantasy and reality fighting in this man’s mind, but it is also the perfect encapsulation of how modern life is nothing but an endless and pointless bureaucratic nightmare. You spend 3 days straight filling out forms just to find out you were talking to the wrong department? You say “this feels like Brazil”. Gilliam and Stoppard’s script is about the space between hellish reality and ridiculous fantasy, about lying to yourself in order to get through the day, about throwing yourself into a romance that exists almost entirely in your head, about being so lonely and sad that your fantasy life starts to take over your day, about suddenly changing your life for no rational reason. The climax of Brazil is both overheated Jungian nightmare and wish fulfillment, and Gilliam’s mission statement for all his work before and after – that no matter what happens or how horrible life gets, they can never get you as long as you have dreams. Which is a trite, cheesy summation unless you think about how very important narrative is in our lives, and escapism sometimes isn’t a term used to insult, sometimes it’s a desperate need.
Also Robert DeNiro’s finest performance full stop.