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Brazil [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo (48kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: English SDH
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: R
  • Runtime: 142 Mins.
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Blu-ray Release Date: November 13, 2012
  • List Price: $49.95

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:4.5/5]

Brazil is Terry Gilliam’s 1985 Orwellian, dark comedy masterpiece. Originally meant for release in the much more apposite year of 1984, the director would run into problems with Universal Studios over  Brazil‘s nearly two-and-a-half-hour running time and pessimistic ending. A standoff would occur between Gilliam and the studio, and the intervening year would see a full-page ad taken out by the director demanding the film be released while public pressure mounted against Universal. Finally, Brazil would see release. What the world received was a meshing of the dark, dystopian futuristic visions of Orwell and Kafka with a gritty steam-punk visual style borrowed from films like Metropolis and Blade Runner. The darker attributes of the oppressive technological juggernaut and “big brother” bureaucratic oversight that the film would portray, centered around protagonist, Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce), would only be tempered by the wry and cynically biting undercurrent of humor and elaborate dreamscapes interwoven into the film. Lowry is himself a cog in the machine, a civil servant in the tangled bureaucratic administration responsible for controlling society’s criminal element. His only escape from the crumbling world around him is to drift off into elaborate reveries in which he is a god-like entity souring through the sky with wings, rescuing a beautiful maiden from a robotic samurai warrior. But Sam finds himself entangled in a dangerous investigation in the real world, when the supercomputer that spits out the names of criminals meant to be processed gives a false hit, and no one around him seems to care that they have the wrong man. Suddenly, Sam is the one in danger when he must, in an ironic twist, investigate the girl from his dreams, Jill Layton (Kim Greist). As it turns out, she is hardly the the angelic woman he dreams of, put a tough, truck driving radical associated with terrorist groups.

The manic pace at which Brazil proceeds, the greyish sets, and the persistent comedic portrayal of how technology becomes a burden raised to the heights of ridiculousness more than the promise of easing our lives is very reminiscent of the films of Jacques Tati, such as Playtime. Gilliam takes Tati’s lighthearted approach and turns it on its ear. Rather than seeing the world as a playful place where technology amplifies the inane, Gilliam makes it the example of how it can make things so much more burdensome and create the bureaucracy we wish to escape, rather than set us free.

Video Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

Brazil is a gritty film and this director-approved high-definition remaster from Criterion Collection captures that to the best of its ability. It doesn’t always work, but there are moments where the detail and colors really pop and the imagery looks splendidly three-dimensional. Other times, the film looks a bit too rough and soft.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

Audio is supplied in a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo (48kHz/24-bit) track. It has an incredibly wide stereo field and lots of dynamic range given its age. Given its lack if surround channels, the natural ambience that can be heard is also rather pleasant and believable. Dialogue is also clear and full.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

Criterion hasn’t supplied any new material in this Blu-ray edition, but the selection still remains rather strong for those uninitiated.

The supplements:

  • Audio commentary recoded by the Criterion Collection in 1996 featuring director Terry Gilliam.

Disc 2 (Blu-ray):

  • What is “Brazil”? (1.33:1; upscaled 1080i; 00:29:07) – Rob Hedden’s witty on-set documentary captures the revolutionary air that had begun to swirl around Brazil even before the controversy surrounding its U.S. Release. It features footage of director Terry Gilliam; actors Michael Palin, Jonathan Pryce, and Kim Geist; screenwriters Tom Stoppard and Charles McKeown; and other key members of Brazil’s cast and crew.
  • The Production Notebook (1.33:1; upscaled 1080i) – The Criterion Collection and Brazil expert David Morgan compiled original documents, photographs, storyboards, and interviews to create the following pieces about the development about and production of the film.
  • Th Battle of Brazil: A Video History (1.33:1; upscaled 1080i; 00:55:09) – This documentary, produced by the Criterion Collection in 1996 and based on author Jack Matthews’ book The Battle of “Brazil,” reunites the players involved in the struggle over the film’s U.S. Release. This take on one of the noisiest, most unusual, and most instructive behind-the-scenes controversies in Hollywood history features Matthews, director Terry Gilliam, producer Arnon Milchan, and studio executives Frank price, Marvin Antonowsky, Bob Rehme, and Sidney Sheinberg.
  • Brazil: The “Love Conquers All” Version w/ optional commentary (1.33:1; upscaled 1080i) – This 94-minute version of Brazil was cut by the studio in an attempt to make the film more commercial. Shown only on syndicated television, it includes all the changes that director Terry Gilliam refused to make, from its alternate opening to its controversial happy ending.
  • Trailer (1.78:1; upscaled 1080i)
  • Booklet: Features an essay by film critic David Sterrit

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

The non-linear approach taken in Brazil worked far better than it would in Gilliam’s next outing, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, where the thread just seemed confused rather than meaningful. Brazil, however, stands out as one of the visionary dark comedies and also one of the great works of sci-fi to come out of the 1980s that doesn’t have “Star” in its name. Criterion has, per usual, done this film a great service in this 2-disc edition.

Additional Screen Captures

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Purchase Brazil [Criterion Collection] on Blu-ray at CD Universe

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Purchase Brazil [Criterion Collection] on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]


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