DVD Brief: Brazil
Description: Terry Gilliam's nightmarish look at the near- future -- a bureaucratic world lost in paper and incompetence, of a "little" man fighting the dehumanizing powers-that-be -- burst on the film world at the end of 1985 amid incredible controversy. Distributor Universal -- in the form of then-boss Sid Sheinberg -- was unhappy with Gilliam's 142-minute cut and a battle raged over the film's release. Because of Gilliam's stature in the film world, his war with the studio became well-documented and a cause celebre among film critics. Sheinberg wanted the film cut to a little over 2 hours but Gilliam fought the executive tooth and nail and the release became stalled in the resulting animosity and battle of words between the two. Making an end run around the studio, Gilliam spirited out prints of his film to show to film students and members of the L.A. Film Critics, who voted the film best of the year. Gilliam eventually cut the film to 131 minutes and the "Brazil" was released in that form in 1986 to U.S. theaters; the 142 minute version was released internationally. The film played primarily in Los Angeles and New York and barely returned its investment. Sheinberg pulled the film and had it cut to 94 minutes -- called the "Sheinberg edit" or "syndicated TV cut" -- for future showings.
The three discs contain two versions of the film as well as comprehensive background materials. Disc Two is actually a jumping off place for viewers, as it documents all the elements that went into the film and the controversy. "What Is Brazil?" is a 30-minute on-set documentary by Rob Hedden; "The Battle of Brazil" is a video history of the battle between the elusive Sheinberg (who is never seen on-screen, only in voice-over) and Gilliam (who at times comes off as a spoiled filmmaker brat), put together by film critic Jack Mathews; interviews with Tom Stoppard and Charles McKeown about the script development; designs for the breathtaking sets displayed by production designer Norman Garwood; costume designer James Acheson's exploration of the couture of the film; storyboards; a study of the special effects; composer Michael Kamen on his score; publicity and production stills; and the original theatrical trailer.
Disc One contains Gilliam's 142-minute cut of the film, culled from the
international and U.S. versions, along with a shot-by-shot audio commentary by
the director. Disc Three contains the 94-minute cut of "Brazil," which contains
all the changes that Gilliam refused to make, including an alternate opening and
a happy ending (giving this cut a third name, the "Love Conquers All" version),
with an audio commentary by journalist David Morgan.
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