Brazil - FLNWO #26

05/19/201528 Comments

Satire? Farce? Romance? Comedy? Documentary? Dream? Mundane reality? A subversive critique of the system, or merely more predictive programming of an inescapable tyranny? Join us on this month's edition of Film, Literature and the New World Order as we attempt to answer the deceptively simple question: What is "Brazil"?

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What is Brazil?

Bush: "go out and shop"

6-Year-Old Girl on 'No Fly' List

FBI Entraps Americans in Terrorism Sting Operations

Terry Gilliam on Brazil | #BFISciFi

Tom Stoppard biography

Terry Gilliam's battle to release Brazil in US

Last month's episode and comments: Pink Cadillac

Next month: The Library of Babel

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Comments (28)

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  1. paul823 says:

    Great movie and more true to life than what most would suspect. In it, Robert DeNiro plays a rebellious plumber who goes around fixing peoples plumbing in defiance of government mandates (and inefficiencies). At the time, the thought of needing a rogue plumber was pretty funny and original because such a thing would never be needed in real life, right?

    Unless of course you live in a nanny-state like Australia where the government mandates what temperature you can have your water at (I kid you not). We had our hot water unit replaced just before Christmas and at the time I noticed the plumber putting a temperature governor on it that locks the temperature at 50c. Hot enough for a shower, not hot enough to wash dishes. He said he had to install it because the government said so and he’d be in trouble if he didn’t.

    If anyone has De Niro’s number tell him his services are required.

    • Octium says:

      So true!

      Little open source controllers like the Ardunios a good for showing your whitegoods who’s boss. (

      WARNING: Playing with mains electricity is dangerous and kills dozens of people each year, however considering that Democrocide kills more than a couple of million people each year – tinkering with electricity is still a lot safer than voting!

  2. rockshot says:

    It is cool James, WE KNOW that you are working your butt off. That much is obvious! My friends were BLOWN AWAY with the McVeigh Podcast, people who did not even know who you were, now they do!
    So I believe that you have a few more subscribers and donors now.
    In fact I wish that you would work LESS! Spend some more time with your little boy, since he will only be 2 years old once. 2,3 and 4 are my favorite age for children. The stuff they say is hilarious!
    A Mexican saying is: “Only the children and the drunk tell the truth!”

  3. lincolnlea says:

    Interestingly, in an interview with John Cleese, he was asked if it was true he had said he had lost his sense of humour, and if so why. He replied that yes, he had, because humour is the examination of the edge between islands of insanity floating in a sea of sanity, which is mainstream reality. However when the world, reality, has become a sea of insanity with mere islands of the sane, well – you can’t laugh at the sane. Which, he said, the world has now become i.e. a sea of madness with only a few islands of sanity; that it has overtaken the view that his comedy, like Monty Python, was poking fun at. Now it’s all insane, and there are merely islands of sanity. Which is another take on James comment about reality catching up with the artistic view of the world we live in projected in much film / art work of the past century.

    I have to disagree with James on his take of the studio ending of Blade Runner – that we never discover that the girl is a cyborg, and they live happily ever after. (By far my favourite of the alternate endings, incidentally, to reveal interest). He does discover she is a cyborg, and his closing remarks are “I didn’t know how long we had. Who does??” Not what I’d describe as a perfect “Happily ever after”.

    Re this movie, I saw the ending where the male character becomes catatonic and mad, but living in a happy world in his mad mind which can no longer grasp reality. I found the movie itself incredibly depressing, not enjoyable at all. I first saw it years ago, and saw it as frighteningly close to where I saw the world moving. It brought up in me the feelings of furious frustration I always feel when having to deal with maddening bureaucracy – especially Australian, among the worst in the world. Or when I see some innocent person, someone railroaded by the insane sick joke of so called justice in USA and being put to death. No — I didn’t enjoy this movie because it was too close to the bone. It depressed the hell out of me, and I’d never, ever, watch it again.

    • paul823 says:

      Hi Lincolnlea,

      In Blade Runner it was ALWAYS known that the girl was a replicant, what was special about her was that she had no ‘expiration’ date. What was unknown was whether or not the main character was a replicant. One had to put the clues together and make their own decision about that (I thought yes). In the directors cut the happy-ever-after ending was not there.

    • Corbett says:

      Thanks for letting us know about that interview. I was racking my brain during this episode trying to remember which comedian (or director or playwright?) said that he had given up on humour because the world had become un-parodyable. It may indeed have been that Cleese interview I was thinking of. If anyone has a link I’d be happy to read/hear/see this interview again.

  4. lincolnlea says:

    thanks. I never did think there was any evidence to suggest the main character was a replicant. It’s over-imaginative investigation. But I never thought the ending in the studio cut was “happy ever after” But then again, I guess it becomes very subjective, just my take on what constitutes Happy ever after. My main bitch about the directors cut was the elimination of the “voice over” technique, because it’s one I like a lot, and is very very rarely used. He just slotted Blade Runner from something with a difference into just another “more of the same” I felt.

  5. lincolnlea says:

    Looks like Ridley Scott wanted to have his cake and eat it too. Make it all so vague he can decide down the track what he wants. I’m with Harrison Ford on this one. The character comes across as human, and the main interpersonal tension is lost if he is a replicant. Who cares what happens between two computer robots?? It’s the idea that a Human could fall in love with replicant that gives tension and strangeness to the story.
    Then again, perhaps I was being overly influenced by Philip Dicks’ story on which the film was – supposedly – based:
    ” In connection with Deckard’s mission, the novel explores the issue of what it is to be human. Unlike humans, the androids possess no sense of empathy. In essence, Deckard probes the existence of defining qualities that separate humans from androids.” (Wikipedia. aka CIA Factbook)

    I’m especially interested in this, given that psychopaths, also, possess no empathy. Most normal people do have a big problem working out how to interact with something that looks just like us, but lacks the very thing that we consider makes us “human”. I’ve often wondered if Dick was aware of psychopathy.

    • Corbett says:

      Hmm…looks like I chose the wrong movie to review. Anyway, I agree that the replicant test / psychopath test presents an obvious (and interesting) parallel, but that’s a discussion for another thread.

  6. Octium says:

    Interesting how according to this Guardian article from 2001, Timothy McVeigh went by the alias of “Tuttle” at gun shows.

    Perhaps it could be a reference to the city of Tuttle in Oklahoma but the article also includes a Buttle/Tuttle typo!

  7. Arnon Milchan, a full-fledged operative for Israel’s top-secret intelligence agency, Lakam, was the producer of “Brazil.”
    He also produced “The Medusa Touch,” a movie foreshadowing 9/11.

  8. lincolnlea says:

    “Are we to believe that all of them were promoting a specific agenda? Some of them? Brazil in particular?”

    Do you think he had a road to Damascus moment James, saw the light and decided to warn us? 🙂

    I doubt he had an agenda, but we are all influenced by our past experiences and knowledge. Maybe he got the idea from something he had gleaned of intentions of some NWO types. Maybe he just connected dots and could see where it was all headed? Or it may have been so subtle even he was unaware.
    I truly cannot see a bigger conflict of theme though between Pretty Woman and Brazil??? – apart from the fact that PW achieves the impossible of making a loveable hero out of an asset stripper, something I did always find to be the perfect fusion of cynicism and reality !!

    Sorry about forgetting where I found that interview with John Cleese. It’s been over 10 yrs since I heard it, and honestly cant remember where. I did a Google, but had no joy. But I always very clearly remembered it. Cleese can use words that way.

  9. Moxa4 says:

    For me, the appearances of Tuttle – terrorist-rebell – in this kafkaesque world were extremely fascinating and liberating. He and Jill where so courageous, ‘living’ and fighting against the system. Sam was the incarnation of the normal, but somehow ingenuous and upright person, who suddenly starts to ask questions.
    Compared to the boring and miserable life of all the others in that grotesque world, he was trying to break out. So for me, the movie wasn’t so sad, dark and depressing, but extremely grotesque. I think, Terry Gilliam’s intention was to make people laugh. It has always been a part of his message.
    But at the End, there was also an implicit warning: “Don’t be so naive. If you want to break out and you are trying to leave the expected path, you always have to know, what you are doing, just be careful.
    Or as a Scottish Landlady once said to me: Be good, and if you can’t be good, be careful. (Sorry for my English;-)

    • Corbett says:

      Thank you for that, Moxa4. I can appreciate what you’re saying, and from that perspective maybe it is a little more fun than I was making it out to be. Seen from your perspective I suppose there is a certain joie de vivre that redeems the bleak ending.

  10. nosoapradio says:

    Predictive programming. Predictive programming à la Huxley…

    Why do “they” do it?

    To condition “us”? To paralyse “us”? To mobilize “us” in the face of adversity to create something better?

    Does predictive programming function the same way on audiences aware of the concept as it does on those unfamiliar with it? And who do the predictive programmers think they’re speaking to?

    If humanity were watching and reading only optimistic films, series and books about free societies (if that’s not an oxymoron) that give full reign to positive human potential and its talent for achieving immense human happiness would the world be a different or better place?

    Do we necessarily reproduce what we “know”, what we’ve seen, that which is familiar?


    The Theater within the theater (…within the theater within the theater in Stoppard’s case) is one format that I imagine has been adopted for this very purpose of revealing, warning, exploring, without fatalistically “normalizing” as the normalization phenomenon is evoked by the very format itself.

    Without outright announcing it Stoppard uses this format with astounding brio.

    An extract of a Wikipedia article describing Stoppard’s horrifyingly eerie and deceptively funny opening scene of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” offers a provocative perspective on the question:

    “…The play opens with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern betting on coin flips. Rosencrantz, who bets heads each time, wins ninety-two flips in a row. The extreme unlikeliness of this event according to the laws of probability leads Guildenstern to suggest that they may be “within un-, sub- or supernatural forces”. The audience learns why they are where they are: the King has sent for them.

    Guildenstern theorizes on the nature of reality, focusing on how an event becomes increasingly real as more people witness it…”

    …become increasingly real as more people witness it…

    Is humanity caught in the hopeless and un-natural pre-written deus ex machina that Guildenstern ponders? Are we trapped by an omnipotent and psychopathic elite that has predetermined “our” future demise? Have they trapped us through mere insistant suggestion?

    If yes, does being aware of the predicament arm us to extract ourselves from it?

    Whatever the objective answers to these questions are, should answers exist, while constantly confronting the inescapable reality of Hollywoodian and Huxlian predictive programming “our” only hope for freedom is to continue to strive to acquire and consolidate it self-fulfilling our own positive prophecies.

    P.S. I’ll take predictive programming over historical whitewashing à la Tom Hanks any day.

    P.P.S. And then there’s that hairy question of whether the vast majority of us don’t prefer the illusion of the juicy steak to the more grueling reality of constantly working towards genuine freedom.

    Well, anyway, thanks for asking…

    • nosoapradio says:


      I was utterly seduced by Gilliam’s sublime 12 Monkeys whereas I found Brazil to be absolutely indigestible. So finally which of the two is more dangerous in terms of co-opting my subconscious I wonder….

  11. nosoapradio says:

    “…All those moments will be lost in time…like tears in the rain…Time…to die…”

    what distinguishes the feelings, loves, consciousness and “life” experience of humans vs. those of so-called “artificial intelligence”? Is there an inherent difference in legitimacy or value?

    Are we humans ourselves but “artificial intelligence”?

    The ironic possibility of replicant-neutralizing Decker being a replicant himself serves those questions posed by the movie.

    In search of existential answers and exploring their own work Peoples and Scott may’ve changed their own minds… which is probably the very raison d’être of the movie itself.

    • nosoapradio says:

      If the replicants have no empathy then how could they’ve loved each other as Pris and Roy did?

      Apparently they were the oldest replicants… so perhaps replicants learn to love with enough time and “human” experience…? What was their love? Was it inherently different than Deckard and Rachel’s?

      and what about psychopaths… do they learn to love with time?

      now time for me to stop saturating the comments board…

  12. rockshot says:

    OK, now that I have listened to this podcast, I HAVEN’T seen the movie yet! When this came out, I hung with the “Art World Crowd” and I remember being told that this movie was worth watching.
    I still have not seen it! AHHHHHCH!
    Can any kind and helpful person tell me where they where I might be able to find it?
    Just got back from the library and no dice of course as I figured. With all the cut backs our local libraries are in sad shape.

    I HAVE seen the movie on YT, as a play for play live stream but Don’t know if I should trust them. Anybody have any experience with them?
    RSVP and Thanks!
    Or any other suggestions certainly welcome!

  13. Fosca says:

    Hi James,
    Predictive programming or poking holes…? From 2015 perspective the first may be obvious, but I think one need to step back and put it into perspective of the time it was created. Certainly I cannot prove it wrong, but you may end up in a good paranoia if you expect a 100% control by the system, which controls every screen play or every book released. If still so, there would be no point in continuing consumption of any alt media. They also would be part of the system to control certain subjects.

    IMO the movie mirrors a development of society in a very funny way. Still the ending may be seen as giving no option than to escape to the inner asylum. I think I was also a bit disappointed when I saw it first. It would have been so much nicer to see the hero suceed by kicking of a revolution! But no, we are left with this dystopia, where there is no way out. To me this is possibly the only way for a minimum of “education”. The viewer now needs to really start thinking, what to do to overcome such a society or better how to avoid to get there in the first place.

    Will this really work? The chances are not high, I think. I am not aware of many movies triggering revolutions. Books seem to be more advanced but it is more a sum of social communication or conditons that make it happen. 

    The studio eendings: I am always puzzled with this US versions. These must have a happy end. Take Besson’s “Big Blue” or “Leon”. Hard to believe these have been ruined. Is this predictive programming or simply a leverage of the market potential? It mainly applies to the US, though I believe many Americans (who I know) would appreciate the original version. If you have time, it would be great to get your take on “US happy film endings” in a FLNWO!

    Can film really change anybodies mind? Not much, I think. Take the example of so called Anti-war movies. They will be seen as such by people who do not like war. The other see it as war movies, but it will not change their view. Possibly it is much easier to underline mainstream narratives than to encourage critical thinking. Taking the economic scale of producing a movie into account, I think it is an inherent problem that we hardly see any “revolutionary” movies. Mainstream sells much better. Thus no further control is required! 🙁

    Thanks, James, for the podcast!


  14. bubromer says:

    Great podcast. I think the real predictive programming is that if you try to make your way out of the system or get too much insight into it and communicate that insight to the wrong people or let it mess with you mind – as the main character (forgot his name) does in his own whimsical and ‘romantic’ way – you will fall within the remit of psychiatry and while not ‘lobotomized’ be officially labelled as crazy. As a interesting parallel one might cite the Fight Club book in which the incredibly perceptive narrator who also happens to be Tyler Durden turns out to be a patient in a mental hospital, with Tyler Durden being his free man’s dream in an unfree world.

  15. cabanaobr says:

    Little late to the party here, but I was struck by Corbett’s ideas of the film’s (Brazil) emphasis on the nature of fantasy in the Rube-Goldberg Superstate. It is clearly a primary focus, as is evident from the time the film takes depicting fantasy, in particular the extended fantasy sequence at the end.

    I would posit first that the film is not nearly as bleak as 1984. First, Tuttle, though merely a renegade freelance repairman, is, I believe, allowed to live. I wish they had placed more emphasis on this. Tuttle writes his own history, though not in the conditions of his own making, which is all anyone can ask for.

    Also, the disfunction of the Leviathan always gives a window for hope of an eventual breakdown (primarily with the survival of Tuttle). The most you can say about the government in Brazil is that it sometimes manages to torture and eliminate the right guy. And Lowry isn’t exactly a hard target. He is an antihero throughout the story, whose only real redeeming quality is his ability to hold on to fantasies that are more “real” than the realities to which his mother wishes he would aspire (i.e. moving up and up in the soul-swallowing bureaucracy). His eventual demise, while lamentable, is ultimately no real loss, represents no real loss of hope for renewal, while the total degradation and murder of Winston Smith did just that.

    Lowry was completely ineffectual throughout the film, and never had any ability to translate his fantasy into action in the real world, like Tuttle did. He never really became interested in the goings-on in the world outside, never even displayed the spark of curiosity that graces Winston Smith. Upon meeting the girl of his dreams, he forgets about the Buttle-Tuttle confusion entirely. When he gets the promotion, he has access to some of the most incriminating and illuminating information about the bizarre government that employs him, but he remains utterly uninterested in anything but his fantasy. Even when his dream is talking to him, even as he is in the truck, in the belly of the beast of fake terrorism (or perhaps fake, the audience is never all that sure) he shows no interest at all in the matter, and never relates to the girl as anything other than his fantasy object. The girl could be a hallucination, for all it matters to him.

    He is the equivalent of an adult who does just enough to maintain some livelihood while spending his nights daydreaming of playing shortstop for the Toronto Blue Jays. You give him credit for at least holding on to a more colorful dream than making supervisor, but its not if he’d handle it well if, by some miracle, he is invited to minor league camp. Lowry had no family of his own, no love interest outside his fantasy, and most important, was completely incapable of goal-directed, autonomous action. When his moment came, he was hilariously unprepared.

  16. a822 says:

    Excellent James, really enjoyed it,
    and glad you reflected upon the bleakess
    of the movie because that’s how I viewed it,
    the prison within a prison ending is really quite depressing,
    one might argue that since Lowry wanted to break free,
    that’s at least one mind that has escaped the system,
    but is retreat into cuckooland the definition of a victory?
    I guess what makes this movie great and what makes it worth remembering,
    is the wisdom Gilliam alludes to in snippets,
    reference is to the short inserts you see with the fat lady typist who is writing everything we see on screen (as Sam Lowry should have done), with “kapow!”, “boom!”, “zap!”… I took this as a hunch that we are invited to consider being creative in the face of oppression, even using and deriding our own paranoia, instead of launching head first into walls like destructive action, retreat in neverland, and so on. Even if you make an awkward third-rate pulpish job of it, counter the system through fiction, satire, whatever, inform, write, make music cartoons, jokes, in the end Lowry was a dreamer who could have given his visions flesh by turning fantasy into words, broadened the minds of people who perhaps felt like him but had lost their imagination or sense for comedy,well, that didn’t happen but Gilliam did just that.
    Plus, there are so many great scenes, especially the one where anarcho-terrist Tuttle disappears into the heap of newspaper pages he originated from in the first place, that’s a gem. Great movie, great podcast.

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