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Brazil: The Criterion Collection

Terry Gilliam's 1985 Brazil doesn't take place in the future, even though the totalitarian state it depicts resembles the cautionary novels of Aldus Huxley and George Orwell. Brazil doesn't take place in the past either, despite it's Art Deco milieu, 1930s clothing and hairstyles, and clunky, jerry-rigged technology. Brazil happens in the 20th century — it just isn't our 20th century. It's more like Franz Kafka's 20th century. In this parallel society of writer/director Terry Gilliam's fervent imagination, the government watches over everything, ruling with all the efficiency that a massive bureaucratic machine can muster. Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) is one of the civil servants working for the Department of Records, but he's not the type who throws himself into his job. Instead, he dreams, and always about the same thing — saving his damsel-in-distress (Kim Griest) from the Forces of Darkness. But Sam's waking nightmare, the society in which he lives and the government he serves, has no use for dreamers or hopeless romantics — and he knows it. Sam's is a conformist, far too mild-mannered to question the system. But after Sam encounters renegade handyman Harry Tuttle (Robert De Niro) — the sort of lone hero that he only dreams of being — he glimpses a young woman who is unmistakably the girl of his dreams. Suddenly, Sam decides to track the girl down — just so he can tell her he has been dreaming about her and that he loves her. This DVD edition of Brazil brings Criterion's five Laserdisc platters to a more manageable three, and with all of the benefits that DVD has to offer. One glance at the extras on this big box is all you will need before you cancel your weekend plans. The Gilliam-approved 142-minute cut of Brazil (including a commentary track by Gilliam) is on Disc One, and it looks great. Disc Two holds all the extras, including textual and video supplements on script development, storyboards, production design, costume design, special effects, and production and publicity stills. The original theatrical trailer can also be found here, along with a documentary short on the score with composer Michael Kamen, Rob Hedden's 30-minute documentary "What is Brazil?", which features interviews and behind-the-scenes footage with the cast and crew, and the 60-minute feature "The Battle of Brazil," a detailed look at the struggles between Gilliam and the bean-counters at Universal. Disc Three offers the Universal-cut "Love Conquers All" version of Brazil with a commentary track by journalist David Morgan. Have no doubt about two things: Brazil is a great film, perhaps Gilliam's best, full of shocking images, dark humor, and visual surprises. And Brazil: The Criterion Collection is, to date, the most impressive DVD package to ever hit the street.

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