This holiday season, we at Psycho Drive-In would like to introduce you to the good, the bad, and ugly of not just any Holiday Films, but the Holiday Films you may have forgotten, overlooked, or just didn’t realize were Holiday Films. There’s no Rankin-Bass, no Miracles on any streets, no traditional happy family gathering fare. Instead there’s a lot of blood, violence, some terrorists, monsters, and even aliens. Plus more than a couple of bizarre Anti-Santas to go around. Twelve days, twelve films, twelve opportunities to amuse and disturb your families this holiday season. On the Fourth Day of Christmas, Rick Shingler gives to you, Brazil (1985). Nobody can suck the joy out of Christmas quite like a bureaucrat. Brazil was Terry Gilliam’s fourth directorial feature, the middle installment of what he sometimes referred to as a thematic trilogy made up of Time Bandits, Brazil, and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. That said, if Time Bandits can be thought of thematically as a sort of portrait of the dreamer as a young man, Brazil presents the dreamer’s mid-life crisis, and the Baron is the dreamer in his old age. Perhaps ironically, only the latter of the three has what could be considered a happy ending (well, depending upon which version of Brazil one watches, I suppose, but for all of our sake, let’s just breathe and say together “Criterion Director’s Cut”; the “Love Conquers All” cut, while sounding very nice, simply is not Gilliam’s vision). Gilliam would later retract the idea of there ever being a trilogy, dismissing it as a young director’s pretension. And so. Brazil. Brazil, the movie, never references Brazil, the country, in any way. It doesn’t take place in Brazil. No one in the movie flees from an Allied assault to Brazil. Granted, Jonathan Pryce would be one hell of an interesting Carioca in another movie, perhaps, but this isn’t that movie. And, unless there’s a cut of the movie I haven’t seen, not one single character ever once sets foot (or any other body part) in a waxing parlor. So, why “Brazil”? In point of fact, many drafts of the screenplay bore the simple title “The Ministry.” At some point, Gilliam briefly adopted “1984 ½” as a working title. In his book “The Battle of Brazil” Gilliam references a visit to a steel town in Wales, where everything was covered with a sooty grey dust. He wandered out to the beach, which was covered with enough of this dust to make the rocky sand appear black. There on the beach he saw a man with a small radio tuned to a station playing Latin tunes and the song “Brazil” jangled from the tinny speaker. His mind lit on the incongruity of this jaunty tune in such bleak surroundings and the escapism it provided the owner of the radio. The song “Brazil” would become the namesake and (probably more importantly) the connective tissue of the finished movie. The movie itself tells the story of Sam Lowry, a man living in a dystopian society whose bureaucracy has grown so thick that even the receipts come with receipts. The basic narrative of the story follows Sam as he bends and breaks the strict rules of his society in order to meet his dream girl. Building from this simple “boy meets girl” spine, Gilliam, his frequent collaborator Charles McKeown and Tom Stoppard were able to craft a screenplay that was free to breathe and move fluidly through a staggering number of themes, styles, and messages. It’s sort of a romance. It’s rather surreal. It’s hysterically satirical. It’s a tragedy. It’s something of a fantasy. It’s occasionally harrowing. It’s a science fiction masterpiece. It’s a poignant tribute to the human spirit’s need for freedom. Despite all this, the movie never buckles under its own weight and remains, frankly, really fun to watch. It wanders in and out of Sam’s own private Moon Age Daydream, where he takes the form of an angel-winged glam rocker to rescue his golden-tressed dream girl from what could be a bunch of Skeksis stunt doubles. Outside of the Jungian dreamscape, we bear witness to Sam’s mother, Ida, and her various beauty treatments (at least one of which I fully expect to see echoed as part of the season 32 opener of Keeping Up with the Kardashians) and the juxtaposition of the procedures endured by her friend, Alma, whose procedural complications keep having complications which lead to further complicated procedures. Because, remember, there’s just no room for blemishes, cellulite, or wrinkles in a well-ordered society. Ida and Alma have presupposed plans to match Sam to Alma’s daughter, whether he’s on board or not. Sam is working through innumerable hassles at work. And through it all, he’s having HVAC issues to end all HVAC issues at his apartment, despite (or perhaps because of) the unsolicited assistance of a guerilla HVAC repair man. Terrorists are setting off explosives all over the city, which really creates an annoyingly large amount of paperwork, I’m sure. And ducts. Ducts are everywhere. Leading from nowhere to oblivion. Complicated, labyrinthine, staggering knots of the stuff are inside every wall, crossing every ceiling. Most are placed for the sheer purpose of facilitating the need for repairs. The television instructs viewers that ductwork is the year’s most sought-after holiday gift. Oh, yeah, and it’s Christmas. Did I mention it’s Christmas? It’s easy to forget, even while watching the film. Everyone in the movie trudges perfunctorily through the utterly joyless motions of celebrating the Christmas season. Any gifts given are pre-wrapped, thoughtless gestures. Colorful decorations hang gaudily and limp from the walls. The trees, stockings, and decorative lighting appear to be more death-defying fire hazards than whimsical celebrations of the season. And tangled up in all the ducts and trimmings and trappings is Sam. Sam, who makes the simple mistake of trying to reclaim just the tiniest bit of his humanity. Frivolously, impetuously, emotionally-driven humanity. And that just won’t do. After all, there isn’t paperwork to support frivolity. And here’s where Gilliam’s argument comes to the fore. Simply, there is perhaps nothing more human about humanity than our celebrations. Take Christmas, for instance. We inexplicably wrap boxes of unnecessary (often unwanted) items in gaudily-colored paper and tie intricate bows around them, only to present them to the intended recipient who then unceremoniously rips paper and bow off to get to the contents. We risk life and limb climbing ladders to our housetops to affix lights and decorations that serve little more practical purpose than to drive up our utility bills. We chop down carefully cultivated conifers, drag them into our homes and hang shiny things on them for a month, then drag them back outside to the curb in January and then curse the errant pine needle that stabs through our sock in April, wondering where it came from. We spend and spend and spend and build our expectations to this one magical day, only to have it pass just like any other (albeit with slightly fuller garbage bins and perhaps a mimosa or two). And as we look through the prism of passing days and years, we see that day fondly enough to try to recreate or even outdo the details of some romantically idealized version of events. Everyone received the perfect gift. The children smiled beatifically. The cat purred. The dog wagged its tail. And everyone sang carols and spouted fond, ruddy-faced toasts to one another. Now, really, what could be more human than chasing an imaginary dream and then hanging onto that dream even when the reality of its folly is apparent? Sam may come to find that the girl who looks just like his David Bowie video girl is anything but a damsel in distress, but that doesn’t stop him from trying to rescue her. He is so unwilling to let go of that dream that he carries it all the way to the inevitable conclusion where love, unfortunately, falls far short of conquering all. This is why there is nothing quite as beautifully, woefully flawed as a human. And that fact is what drives the bureaucrats of this world absolutely nuts. Inconsistency, spontaneity and emotional baggage are inherent snags in the logical way of things and are, therefore, anathema to that mythical “well-ordered society”. But they are absolutely essential to humanity and to all of life in our universe. Stagnation is equal to death. Life is messy, dirty, and smelly sometimes. We get wrinkles and grey hairs. We have yet to design a completely flawless climate control system. Sometimes we like to stop and watch stupid cowboy movies, even when we know we should be doing our work. Every once in a while we want to eat things that aren’t on the menu. We might not want to make the sensible choice when deciding who to spend our time with. But that’s being human. It shouldn’t be predictable. We should be able to make stupid, ill-reasoned, spur-of-the-moment decisions, if for no other reason than because those are the decisions that make the best stories when you’re having a pint at the bar. We laugh and love and cry and hate and it’s all exactly the way it’s supposed to be. We need to celebrate. We need to be childlike and full of wonder. We need to dream. We need to hang candy-colored lights and beam at them like infants. We need to laugh at nonsensical things. We need Christmas. And we most certainly don’t need to fill out any more forms. See larger image Brazil (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] New From: $35.04 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response 12 Monkeys (1995) - Psycho Drive-In August 2, 2016 […] that 12 Monkeys was the middle chapter of a satirical dystopian trilogy of films beginning with Brazil and ending with last year’s Zero Theorem, but whether he intended to make a set of films that […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.