In 1996, the Criterion Collection released one of their crowning achievements on DVD: a three-disc collectors' box of Terry Gilliam's 1985 anti-bureaucratic, Orwellian fantasy film, Brazil. The movie is a masterpiece, but the breakdown of the behind-the-scenes feud between Gilliam and MCA-Universal CEO Sid Sheinberg was a big draw, a cautionary tale that Criterion made all the more compelling with its comprehensive set of extras.
The only negative thing I can say about the '96 release is that it was presented in standard-definition video — not a real flaw at the time, but something that's been beautifully rectified with Criterion's Blu-ray re-issue, a technical marvel and a testament to the high-definition format. The new transfer of Gilliam's 142-minute final cut is stunning, and the two-disc set includes all of the content from the earlier release, including his original commentary track, plus buffed-up, hi-def versions of a video "production notebook."
While much of this content is simply up-rezzed from the earlier edition, the artwork accompanying the various segments on the script, the production design, the costumes, and the storyboards have all been re-scanned to exploit the HD format. Also included are segments on the musical score and special effects, a theatrical trailer, plus two documentaries, the best of which is film critic Jack Matthews's 60-minute The Battle for Brazil: A Video History.
Another eye-opener is the 94-minute cut of Gilliam's movie — Sheinberg's preferred "Love Conquers All" version, featuring all the changes Gilliam refused to make, from an alternate opening to a happy ending (!). If you've ever wondered what happens when an artist faces the loss of creative control (a constant threat throughout Gilliam's career), then look no further.
At a retail price of $50, the set's not cheap, but then, money isn't everything — unless you're a bean-counting studio executive.
BRAZIL: BD EDITION : Criterion :: Two Discs :: $49.95