Must-Own Masterpiece

OnDVD: Brazil: Criterion Special Edition

Truthfully, this week's DVD pick isn't going to be of use to many of you. If you're worth your mettle as a collector, you probably already own a copy of Criterion's spectacular three-disc edition of Terry Gilliam's Brazil—arguably the best package the prestige DVD distributor has ever released—so for you, this is irrelevant. Unless you are of the detail-oriented, trainspotter variety for whom details like standard wide-screen vs. anamorphic (sadly, I don't have room to explain to the laymen here—Google it!) matters. See, it's to correct the picture on the film to anamorphic that Criterion is rereleasing their Brazil set this week (there is also a single-disc anamorphic release, for those who already have the big'un), but for those of you who have gone without until now, there's no way this box can be recommended highly enough.

The weird, wild story of how Brazil—Gilliam's masterpiece, at once a stunning sci-fi epic and blacker-than-black comedy about the struggle to think freely in the face of oppression—became a lightning rod for the issue of a filmmaker's freedom is expertly illustrated in Criterion's presentation. The first disc includes the full-length director's cut, 142 minutes of landmark cinema as Gilliam intended it to be seen. The highlight of the second, jam-packed bonus features disc is "The Battle of Brazil," the engrossing documentary chronicling Gilliam's epic battle with U.S. distributor Universal and then-studio head Sid Sheinberg to keep his film intact and not play into lowest-common-denominator expectations. But wait, there's more! Criterion includes on the third disc the abysmal "Love Conquers All" version of the film, which miraculously still managed to get seen on TV at a later date. Edited by Sheinberg's flunkies, the 94-minute hack job, complete with a happy ending, is almost unwatchable for fans of the film but fascinating and invaluable as an example of why complacency for profit must never, ever get in the way of maverick vision. Other bonus features on the disc include a commentary by Gilliam, rare behind-the-scenes footage, storyboards, production stills, essays and much more. This is why the medium of DVD was invented.

Also recommended this week: Amarcord (Criterion); Blade Runner: The Director's Cut; Dead Man's Shoes; Godzilla: Gojira Deluxe Edition; Oz: Season 6; The Red Dwarf Collection; The Seven Samurai (Criterion); Shock Treatment; United 93.

 
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