The Battle of Brazil by Jack Mathews

The Battle of Brazil tells the story of Terry Gilliam’s great movie Brazil, in particular the fight between Gilliam and Universal Pictures over the version of the movie that would be released. Executives at Universal, who hadn’t been working at Universal when the movie was in the planning stages, thought that Brazil was too dark, too confusing and too long. So they tried to re-edit it. Gilliam and his producer strongly objected and started a campaign to get the movie released in its original version. The director and producer won the battle. (Although Universal got the last word by doing a poor job marketing the movie.) 

This is an interesting story about how Hollywood worked in the 80s. Not much seems to have changed since then. Hollywood executives are still trying to maximize profits and still don’t know which movies will be successful, even though they claim to. They also probably continue to offer incredibly self-serving explanations of their behavior.

Having recently watched Brazil again, I think some of it could easily have been trimmed. Some scenes went on too long and interrupted the story. It also bothered me that the same actress was used in the initial fantasy sequences and the “real world” story. The “real world” actress could have been put in the fantasy sequences after the main character met her. I wouldn’t have given the movie the happy ending that the studio wanted, however. The bleak surprise ending is terrific.

I suppose if I ever run a movie studio, I’ll want to interfere with what gets released too. (4/6/12)

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