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Sam Lowry doesn’t have a problem until she shows up.
And that’s usually what happens.
See, this girl has showed up in his dreams where he’s a winged Ziggy Stardust attempting to save her from cages in the sky.
Trust me, it makes sense.
In real life, however, he’s stuck in a society of bureaucracy that is stuck in a war on terror–which, as it turns out, became more apropos twenty years later.
He works for the Ministry of Records, a small-time part of the entire operation that just takes care of people’s information.
But then things go south once he finds out that the woman in his dreams is real. And part of a current clusterfuck he’s fighting through.
There’s a lot more–like Robert De Niro as a rogue HVAC mechanic–but part of the fun is discovering all the little intricacies of the story.
This is a film that stands up against all the other medias that warn of dystopias–1984, Brave New World, Children of Men, Infinite Jest, Fahrenheit 451, the Fountainhead (if you’re batshit)–because it builds a world from the ground up.
And the world is built around fear bred from the government that may or may not be causing all the terrorism that allows them to clamp their hand down against any sort of social freedom.
This is the government that leads Sam Lowry into his dreams which make up some of the more interesting scenes of the film: obelisks arising from pastoral hills, nymphs in cages, and a giant fucking samurai to name a few. The most interesting thing, watching this film 25 years later, is how interesting the physical effects (as well as clunkier-in-a-good-way) are in the way that the lighting is completely different from that of CGI.
There was this interesting Pixar feature on the Finding Nemo DVD where they talk about how they could make something so realistic, but there’s this weird parabola to interest and connection with viewers. If something enters complete realism, like, say any of the MoCap films Robert Zemeckis has done, there becomes a sort of emotional detachment because it looks too real. So Pixar pulls back and allows everything to look a little goofy.
With physical effects, since they’re not animated, you don’t have to worry about this as much because you aren’t creating things out of bits of data, but bits of clay.
It’s kind of the same with digital vs. analog projection. Analog projection is light illuminating an image, thereby feeling easier to the eyes. Digital is trillions of bits of information composed of squares onto the screen to create the illusion of a picture.
Anyway. I’m digressing. The effects in this movie are really kickass. From the random explosions to everything done in the dream sequences. And I like that this was done before visual effects because Gilliam seems to be still wrapping his head around CGI (see: Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. Though that may’ve just been because of budget).
This is an affecting film that spirals out of control and gets ever more weird as the universe expands.
And then there’s the ending…
[Get the Criterion 3-disc ultimate fucking edition. The film is complete, the special features are awesome, and the third disc is devoted to a 90-minute version of the film that puts in all the cuts that Universal wanted to make. It’s worth how ever much you find it for (I found it for $30 on ebay as opposed to $65 at Borders. Never buy DVDs at Borders. They rip you the fuck off)]
It saddens me, if not worries me, that this is considered Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece. Robert De Niro plays the boxer Jake LaMotta, a middleweight contender who is as stubborn and stoic as they come.
And I suppose that my main gripe with this film is how well they made him a real big son of a bitch. You see him physically and verbally abuse his wives–one who stays with him for over ten years–and that’s just something that I am not cool with. Luckily, it’s this type of personality that, for ten years on, ruined his shot at a championship. I can’t understand why anyone would be such a dick for so long, so stubborn that their life slowly disintegrates. It’s my understanding, according to the IMDB, that Scorsese and De Niro rewrote parts of the script to make him seem like less of an asshole. Now that’s amazing because he’s such a big cunt in the movie that I almost would’ve liked to see that original script to see what had changed.
However, one of the redeeming qualities of this movie are the boxing scenes. They’re some legitimate pieces of filmmaking. The way that the blood flows and the punches come, there are very few parts, if any, that you wonder if the hits were real.
But this redemption is short-lived given how much I hate Joe Pesci. He’s annoying as fuck to me and I don’t think that’s something I’d ever be able to get over. He plays Joey LaMotta, Jack’s brother who stands by his side unwaveringly throughout the years and even bashes a guy’s head into a taxi door just because of Jake’s paranoia that his wife is cheating on him constantly. Joey is the type of manager you’d want around because he’s your younger brother and, because of his growing up with you, your jackass behavior is normal. (Aside: What is it with the shorter actors–Pesci, DeVito, et al–that they have to act like such tough guys? Their presence on screen, along with their oft annoying voices, makes me want to vomit. That’s a bit hyperbolic, admittedly, but I think the point is made.)
And at least the title is apt, so this movie isn’t a complete failure. You can tell that this was a project that they enjoyed making and is some very good cinematography. I’ve just never been one to root for the tough guys because of who I am and all the tough guys I’ve encountered and how enraging they can be with their heads like rocks and their RPMs always in the red. They’re constantly out to prove something even after they’ve proven it. LaMotta types only let their balls and their fists guide their instincts.