If you have that old three-disc DVD set in the slipcase, you can safely replace it with this svelte new two-disc Blu-ray release, unless you’re like me and only have one Blu-ray player in the house, in which case you may still want a copy of “Brazil” on good ol’ standard-def laying around. I should also add upfront that while pretty much everything has been ported over from the earlier release, some text materials and galleries weren’t, so that may be another good reason to keep two versions of this film on your shelf.
I’m not going to bother reciting the plot, since I assume, like many of us, you’ve seen this film several times. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend that you stop reading this review and at a minimum rent the film. We’ll wait for you to return.
The film, along with Gilliam’s original commentary track, occupy the first disc, giving the movie plenty of room to breathe. Given the bits of dirt and other things that are still present, I would love to see “Brazil” given a thorough scrubbing, like “Star Wars” and other classics have, but the video quality is still solid. I’m glad the grain wasn’t wiped away — that’s something the major studios have been doing, I suppose to make every Blu-ray look like the film was originally shot with digital cameras, but their grain offers a warmth that digital can’t capture. I realize it’s something that is quickly going away in new movies, and I can live with that, but I’d prefer to see classics presented the way they were originally shown, not the way some studio executive thinks they should be shown.
Disc two houses the rest of the supplements, including the infamous “Love Conquers All” version with its commentary by “Brazil” expert David Morgan. And, of course, we have the brilliant 54-minute “The Battle of ‘Brazil’: A Video History,” which traces Terry Gilliam’s arduous fight with Universal as he tried to get his version of the film released, rather than studio head Sid Sheinberg’s hideous “Love Conquers All” abomination. If you love Hollywood war stories, this is a great one.
The disc is rounded out with everything else from the old release, including the less-confrontational “What is ‘Brazil’?” featurette; storyboards for the dream sequences; featurettes about the score, set and costume design, and special effects; and the theatrical trailer. The score, set and costume design, and special effects featurettes were reconfigured a bit for this release, with photos from the old still galleries brought into the video. Some things were lost along the way, however.
Also lost along the way was the photos and text pieces that originally accompanied the final supplement, “We’re All in This Together: The ‘Brazil’ Screenwriters.” The text notes and script and storyboard images from the old DVD release were stripped out, leaving us with just the interviews with Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard, and Charles McKeown.
It’s a bummer that some stuff was dropped from the old DVD release, especially since the whole point of Blu-ray is that more content can be packed on a disc, but nothing that was excised was major, either. In the end, this is a classic film that has received another first-class treatment by Criterion.