Colin Timothy Gagnon (sacredspud) wrote,
Colin Timothy Gagnon

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No weekend update, just movie reviews: Alexander, Harry Potter, Brazil (Love Conquers All version)

I did nothing this weekend worth discussing at length in a livejournal post -- sorry. Given the subject of this post, I should mention that I watched Alexander. The verdict? PBS could have made Alexander work as a twelve-hour miniseries, but as it stands it's gorgeous but disposable. I think I said the same thing about Troy, actually. I'm learning (slowly) that Oliver Stone is a very capable director whose ideas about what makes a movie work are completely incompatible with mine.

Today I had off, this being Martin Luther King Jr. Day and all. I wish I could tell you that I participated in some sort of high-falutin', multi-cultural appreciation festival, but in fact I spent the bulk of the day watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on the IMax with agaysexicon and koriandrkitten, and then hanging out with them and fuzzyinthehead.

Thoughts on Harry Potter: It's an attractive movie full of great performances, but it's bogged down by the fact that 734 pages is far too much material to cram into two and a half hours. I wasn't lost at any point in the story, but things seemed rushed and I could tell that I was missing a great deal of background information. IMDB tells me that Warner Bros.' original plan had been to release GoF in two parts (ala Kill Bill), but director Mike Newell vetoed that idea in favor of one making movie. I don't think this was the right choice, especially given that the Harry Potter franchise is a guaranteed box office draw. Not having read the book I can only guess that they didn't cut out anything that would have made an impressive effects sequence, so while two movies would have been more expensive to make than one, they would also have been disproportionately more profitable. Oh, well. As a non-fan, it was worth matinee price at the IMax, which is slightly more than full price anywhere else.

On the subject of movies, I watched the "Love Conquers All" cut of Brazil on Saturday night. For those unfamiliar, Universal Studios was initially unhappy with the film, and had proposed 47 minutes of cuts to make it palatable to a mainstream U.S. audience. Terry Gilliam refused to release the edited movie under his name, and the studio finally caved when Brazil started winning awards and Oscar nominations before actually being released in the States. Still, the shorter cut has aired on television in the past, and is available with the special edition of the DVD. I'd been led to believe that this cut of the movie was awful, so I was surprised to learn that it's really not that bad, just very, very different.

In Terry Gilliam's Brazil, Sam Lowry is a stagnant bureaucrat who lives more inside his head than outside of it. His fantasies begin to overlap with reality when he realizes that the girl of his dreams is a real person. He starts taking the opportunities he would otherwise have waived, making decisions he otherwise would have avoided, and eventually loses himself within his fantasies because he can no longer cope with real life. Though happy, Sam has made himself dysfunctional. It's a tragic ending.

The shorter cut virtually excises the dream sequences, leaving just enough to introduce Jill, Sam's dream-girl. The end result is that there is no fantasy in the movie. Everything onscreen happens in real life. In this version, Sam's infatuation with Jill inspires him to break free of his shackles and escape with her to a better life thanks to the help of an underground resistance movement which may have infiltrated the government. This is a very happy ending.

The keys to unlocking the story in Brazil are contained plainly within the movie. Some people get it the first time. Others require multiple viewings (or simply give up). The thing is, many of the keys are missing in the shorter cut. Some of the puzzles go unsolved. Some of them can no longer be described puzzles. Terry Gilliam's cut is weird, but the weirdness makes sense when you figure out that Sam is dreaming it. Sam's nightmare visions (Tuttle literally being consumed by paperwork, for example) become incomprehensible as real-world events in the Love Conquers All version. Then again, this is the movies, and if you can't handle Robert DeNiro disappearing in a pile of papers, you're probably better off sticking to the news (and not Fox news, since you've indicated that you can't handle fantasy).

Obviously, Terry Gilliam's cut is the better movie, but it's startling to see that both versions work, and yet make such different points. Had Terry Gilliam actually written the Love Conquers All version, his fans would have embraced it as a masterpiece.
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