The Eye of the Fish

May 5, 2010


Slightly off topic to discussion of Wellington buildings, but just a quick note to say that the wonderful Film Archive in Wellington is showing the film Brazil for the next few days – until Saturday. Thanks be to Frank Stark and Steve Russell. Note to the curious: does not contain anything about Brazil or Brazilians.

Quite possibly the best film ever for architects, and definitely one of the few films ever to feature the work of Services Engineers so prominently, Brazil is a MUST SEE for any of those of you young enough to have never seen it. And if you’ve only ever seen it on video, then now is the time to see it on the big screen.

Curiously, the film was a bit of a dud on release – but predictably that was just because the suits couldn’t get to grips with its weirdness. The other great architectural cinematic masterpiece, of Blade Runner, was also a dud at release, but has gone on to become on of the all time favourites with architects, and film buffs, every time they run a poll.

updated: With added picture just for 60mPa, who still goes weak at the knees for short tough blonde women delivering concrete in his dreams…. of Kim Greist, the ‘truck driver’ of the Scammell, and then another pic of Jonathon Pryce forcing her to drive with a fearsome weapon….

I include for you here a great synopsis of the movie off a little know blog called Monkey, who put it into words better than I can:

“Set somewhere in the 20th. Century in a giant, unnamed metropolis where the grey suits and paperwork flows like blood through the clogged veins of an eventual heart-attack victim, the story follows a little man named Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce), a low-level government employee who is conflicted about his role in an overreaching bureaucracy. We learn that he is initially happy with his “dead end job” and simple life, and that he habitually escapes into a fantasy world of romantic struggles. His contented but lonely life becomes complicated by his mother’s attempts to secure him a promotion, the intrusion of a renegade heating engineer, and the real-life appearance of the woman of his dreams..

Throughout the story Sam becomes involved in complicated and life-threatening attempts to secure himself happiness, while also developing a strong hatred for the system of which he is a part. Ultimately, his efforts culminate into a violent and tragic climax, the outcome of which depends entirely on his friends’ loyalty to Sam over their loyalty to the system that controls them..

Featured in this story is (in my humble opinion) one of the greatest characters in film history: Archibald ‘Harry’ Tuttle (played by Robert De Niro).. His philosophy on life is what i wish i was living right now:

“I came into this game for the action, the excitement. Go anywhere, travel light, get in, get out, wherever there’s trouble, a man alone. Now they got the whole country sectioned off, you can’t make a move without a form. this old system of yours could be on fire and I couldn’t even turn on the kitchen tap without filling out a 27b/6… Bloody paperwork..

“Listen, kid.. we’re all in it together..”

Yep, that’s the Services Engineer, as played by de Niro. I promise that you’ll never look the same again at anyone calling their company Central Services. Also, of course, a great film for those budding plastic surgeons, interior architects, building scientists, film makers, and potential plumbing terrorists.

Thomas Magnum
5 - 05 - 10

The history of Brazil is just a textbook example of how to turn a picture into an absolute clustercuss, and then somehow come up with a bona fide classic at the other end. Everytime I happen to see Sid Sheinberg’s name in credits it makes me chuckle.

5 - 05 - 10

then again, it seems that every project that Terry Gilliam touches seems to turn into a “clustercuss” as you so politely put it.
From what I can recall, (and without touching google or wiki, just for the hell of it), there were monumental problems with :
The adventures of Baron Munchhausen,
Don Quixote,
Brazil, and
crikey, maybe I do need to look at Wikipedia after all. The redundancy of memory – what did we ever do without the interwebby?

5 - 05 - 10

A great film indeed. I’ll recommend it to my students to go see.

5 - 05 - 10

Pity the Archive seats are as crappy as ever. . .

John H
5 - 05 - 10

Re: “Also, of course, a great film for those budding plastic surgeons, interior architects, building scientists, film makers, and potential plumbing terrorists”

Add to that political science and post-war European history students. An extrodinary parody of a post-Stalinist planned economy and apart from the lack of a “Big Brother” figure, in many respects it was more “1984” than the film “1984” was (the John Hurt / Richard Burton film did Orwell’s masterpiece no justice and was pretty weak compared to Brazil). I saw Brazil in Hungary in 1987 where somehow it managed to get past the censors (probably thanks to Gorby’s efforts flowing through to the rest of Eastern Europe). Folk over there could REALLY relate to many of the things parodied in the film and it quickly developed a cult following.

60 MPa
5 - 05 - 10

For at least a decade after this movie I only dated short-haired blondes..

6 - 05 - 10

Owen: wear long trousers and thick socks or shin pads.

Me: i had forgotten how truly weird / cool / good / bad that Gilliam’s films are. And how many: from Wiki:
Directed by Gilliam
* Jabberwocky (1977)
* Time Bandits (1981)
* Brazil (1985)
* The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)
* The Fisher King (1991)
* 12 Monkeys (1995) (inspired by Chris Marker’s La Jetée).
* Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
* The Brothers Grimm (2005)
* Tideland (2005)
* The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)

Up-coming films:
* Zero Theorem (dropped in pre-production stage; on hold)
* The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (in pre-production)

Co-directed by Gilliam
* Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) (co-directed with Terry Jones)

6 - 05 - 10

For all those fans of Brazil, the costume designer, James Acheson is speaking next Wednesday May 12 at 6pm at Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre. Call them (at Toi Whakaari) for a ticket. James lives in Seatoun (when not in Hollywood) and has won three Oscars for Costume design – for the last Emperor, Restoration and Dangerous Liaisons. He also designed the costumes for all three Spiderman movies. On top of that he is a great guy and speaks well. Highly recommend.

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6 - 05 - 10

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8 - 05 - 10

I had forgotten how truly weird that film really is. Totally, totally, unorthodox.

But I do still like it !

60 MPa
23 - 05 - 10

Hey Max – I’m feeling the love from the extra pics but please, I never date short women. Way too bossy.
Brazil + Fisher King + 12 Monkeys are great – I’ll check the Bros Grimm out too
Anyone here ever seen “The Double Life of Veronique”? Absolute favourite film. Kieslowski was the best – sorely missed.