Tom Stoppard, Charles McKeown, and Terry Gilliam, 1985
Still working my way through the Skandie winners, but I also got an account
at Criticker a while back and thought I'd
start in on some of its recommendations. Seems to be working out so far, as
this is a good one. It wouldn't be half as good as a book, since it mainly
succeeds on its visuals: the computers built out of manual typewriters with
a tiny screen and magnifier attached; the supply-closet offices in gargantuan
fortresses; and, of course, the ductwork, the ubiquitous ductwork, gigantic
flex-hoses strung along the ceiling of even the most opulent mansions. I
wasn't really a huge fan of the dream sequences or the bits that seemed like
grotesquerie for grotesquerie's sake, but then it'd cut back to something
like a telephone with a complicated switchboard in place of a keypad and I'd
be reminded anew why so many people love this thing.
As a dystopia, again, it has its good points and bad points — I
thought the movie failed to build much of a sustained critique of consumer
culture, for instance, instead taking a few wild swings and calling it a day.
But I really liked the way that it integrated an over-the-top parody of
bureaucracy in the Douglas Adams mold with genuine horror and pathos.
Pattern 13 says that comedy and tragedy can
and should coexist, and Brazil manages to be pretty funny —
not just in a "smirk at the dark irony" sort of way, but containing some actual
laughs — while not shying away from making us listen to the agony of
a torture victim. Some may consider it a tonal clash to go from a satirical
bit about paperwork to the keening of a widow, but if there's anything the last
eight years have taught us, it's that roughly equal measures of laughter and
outrage are the only sensible response when you're led by
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