47 FILMS: 26. BRAZIL

HOLLYWOOD – In the latest in our series of 47 Films You Have to See Before You Are Murdered in Your Dreams, we look at Terry Gilliam’s suitably nutty Brazil.

Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) is an unambitious man working his humdrum job in records, dealing with a fully automated home where everything malfunctions and living happily enough in a society plagued terrorist attacks and an authoritarian regime that suppresses all freedom.  Like Hamlet, he would be happy ‘were it not that I have bad dreams’.  Okay. Sam’s dreams are a Mitty like escape from the fearful drudgery that surrounds him. He is a winged knight forever rescuing the fair maiden, but it is this which will get him in so much trouble when he meets his fantasy in the form of real life trucker Jill (Kim Greist). This leads him to accept the promotion his mother (Katherine Helmond) has finagled to Information Retrieval.

Brazil presents perhaps the most successful cinematic version of George Orwell’s 1984 – there are several direct references in the film. However, Gilliam’s dystopia is not only oppressive by design but arbitrarily incompetent. The whole course of events starts with a typo, the ghost in the machine is a squashed fly. The ludicrous – rogue plumbers who actually fix things on time are considered terrorists, socialites compete on who can have the most radical plastic surgery – mix with the horrifying. There’s something dreadful in Sam’s fate as he is essentially a little boy, cosseted by his mother and who has never questioned the world in which he lives, as he races whooping towards a confrontation with forces he doesn’t understand. Pryce is perfect in the role. And the cameos are all pitch perfect grotesques. Gilliam’s fellow Python, Michael Palin is excellent as Sam’s cheery peer, a friendly torturer who is as much fascinated by office politics as he is committed to his own gruesome efficiency; Bob Hoskins as Spoor, the government plumber and Robert de Niro as Tuttle, the rogue plumber.

Gilliam’s visual sense creates a detailed and visually striking world, the creaking 1940s technology of tubes and ducts. Tom Stopard co-screenwriter is on hand to give the same detail to the language of euphemism and coercion that dominates the film. Or the deputy minister Helpman (Peter Vaughn) with his endless supply of sporting metaphors. Read the posters in the background – ‘Don’t Suspect a Friend, Report Him!’

Brazil was Gilliam’s masterpiece and the troubles he had making the film and getting it distributed set him on a trajectory of awkwardness for years to come, but frankly it was worth it.

For more of our 47 Films Click Here.

47 FILMS: 12. MONA LISA

In our continuing series of ’47 Films to see before you’re murdered in your dreams’, we look at Neil Jordan’s murky English noir Mona Lisa.

A stylish British crime flick produced by George Harrison’s Handmade Films in 1986, Mona Lisa also features one of Bob Hoskins’ best performances. Up until this point Hoskins was most famous for his hardman turn in The Long Good Friday, but here he plays against type as George, a heart of gold ex-con, who, on being freed, gets a job as a limo driver for Michael Caine’s sleazy gangland boss.
With an abiding love for Nat King Cole and a nostalgic longing for a better more honorable time, George is given the task of driving around high class call girl Simone (Cathy Tyson). They soon strike up a friendship, which leads George to agree to find her abused young friend Kathy, leading him onto a collision course with his boss and his criminal dealings. Neil Jordan’s film (co-written with David Lealand) is a neo-noir akin to his underrated 2002 film The Good Thief. It’s got a fantastic score and wonderful performances from Hoskins and Tyson, the former losing out to Paul Newman for the Oscar nod.  There are also early cameos from Robbie Coltrane and The Wire’s Clarke Peters.

Kids director Larry Clark is currently developing a remake which was going to star Mickey Rourke who has since pulled out. For more of our ’47 Films to see Before you are Murdered in your Dreams’ Click Here.

WHEN AN ACTOR DIES

HOLLYWOOD – Bob Hoskins died yesterday. It was sad. The announcement that he was retiring from film acting a couple of years ago because of a diagnosis of Parkinson’s meant the news was not a shock, but that earlier news itself had been very sad, so the sadness just accumulated.

The man made a lot of wonderful films, some great television and the films that weren’t so great were never rubbish because of anything he did. People want to pay tribute to him. And they go to the work. Rightly so. But this being the internet what we really need is a top five.

The Playlist did one the moment he retired, and they proliferated yesterday. Top five performances, maybe with some honorable mentions. Is it wrong of me to thing there’s something like indecent haste in this? Can’t we have a slight pause between the announcement of a man’s death and the ranking of his work (alongside honorable mentions)? Are we really paying tribute to him or are we servicing our Asperger’s like need to put everything into a hit friendly top five blog post? 

The British newspaper the Guardian had the tasteless headline ‘Forget Mona Lisa, Felicia’s Journey was his masterpiece‘. Seriously? The man’s not cold and you use this moment to prove your singing out of the choir credentials. I understand he’s an important British actor and a British paper probably feels the more coverage the better, but that feels like loud self-important braying at a memorial service.  

A stupid asshole I might be, but let’s have a bit more class.