If Franz Kafka had been an animator and film director–oh, and a member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus–this is the sort of outrageously dystopian satire one could easily imagine him making. However, Brazil was made by Terry Gilliam, who is all of the above except, of course, Franz Kafka. Be that as it may, Gilliam sure captures the paranoid-subversive spirit of Kafka’s The Trial (along with his own Python animation) in this bureaucratic nightmare-comedy about a meek governmental clerk named Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) whose life is destroyed by a simple bug. Not a software bug, a real bug (no doubt related to Kafka’s famous Metamorphosis insect) that gets smooshed in a printer and causes a typographical error unjustly branding poor Sam as a miscreant.
The movie presents such an unrelentingly imaginative and savage vision of 20th-century bureaucracy that it almost became a victim of small-minded studio management itself–until Gilliam surreptitiously screened his cut for the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, who named it the best movie of 1985 and virtually embarrassed Universal into releasing it. This DVD version of Brazil is the special director’s cut that first appeared in Criterion’s comprehensive (and expensive) six-disc laser package in 1996. Although the DVD (at a fraction of the price) doesn’t include that set’s many extras, it’s still a bargain. –Jim Emerson