BRAZIL ("15", Odeon Leicester Square), the latest film from director Terry Gilliam, has absolutely nothing to do ss ith Brazil and rather a lot to do with George Orwell. At every turn it recalls Nineteen Eighty Four.
Set somewhere in the late twentieth century, Brazil has as its hero bureaucrat Sam Lowry (played by Jonathan Pryce). He spins out his drab life at the Ministry of Information surrounded by exhortatory slogans such as "Loose talk is noose talk" and "Suspicion breeds confidence", Things begin to fall apart when Sam meets his dream girl, Jill (Kim Greist). The consummation of their love is soon followed by their arrest. Sam is dragged off for brutal interrogation. It is all very Orwellian, except it is as if Orwell had read Freud.
Brazil is the psychological flip-side to Nineteen Eighty Four, strong, where Orwell is notoriously weak, in evoking a depth of human feeling and fantasy. Terry Gilliam also has a sense of humour, which is more than could be said for Orwell.
As you would expect from a former member of the Monty Python team, Gilliam selfconsciously, if effectively, deals in bad taste. The scene of a cheery audio-typist committing to paper the recording of some awful interrogation and torture is hilarious and disturbing all at once, a telling image of complete inurement to unspeakable violence.
There is comedy of a lighter kind too. Robert De Niro pops up as Tuttle, as SAS man of the heating and ventilation world, assisting the beleaguered Sam in his fight against his malevolent air-conditioning system. The delightful Katherine Helmond is the hero's dreadful mother, a woman passionately and exclusively committed to the rejuvenation of her ageing face. Look out too for a truck scene which pokes fun at Raiders Of The Lost Ark and, more esoteric, a stylish and witty reference to The Battleship Potemkin.
Any review, in being neccessarily selective, will I think lend Brazil a coherence it doesn't have. I've yet to mention the Electronic Samurai, the explosions in restaurants, the funeral party, the people who fly, and the drama of mistaken identity. All these elements don't hang together very well. The film seems the product of an imagination in manic overdrive, an attempt to do and be too many things all at once.
A running time of well over two hours has the feel of a constraint when in fact it is an indulgence. Brazil is an exhausting film; but not only exhausting: also inventive, funny and memorable.
In stark contrast, Robert Benton's Places In The Heart ("PG", Classic Haymarket) has about it a beautiful narrative simplicity. And from that, a resonance of universality: it speaks to us directly of the heroism of ordinary people in the face of their sufferings.
Set in rural Texas during the thirties, Places In 7'he Heart tells the story of Edna Spalding (played by Sally Field) and her struggle to keep her family together after her husband, the town's sheriff, is killed. She takes in an itinerant black worker, Maze (Danny Glover), and a blind boarder, Mr Will (John Malkovich). The two of them both Share and help her overcome the hardships imposed by the time and the region. The privations of the depression, even a tornado, they can survive, but not so easily the evil that men do: either the simple indifference of those who overlook their troubles or the active hatred of such as the Ku
Amid the realistic action are interspersed fantasy sequences, fantasies of joy and reconciliation. Their very awkwardness is somehow put to good effect, contributing to the pathos of these unattainable dreams of harmony and happinness.
Places In The Heart is a moving and exhilerating film. It confirms Sally Field as a major actess, a tremendous but unassertive presence on screen. The supporting cast is very fine as well. Robert Benton is compelling as a story-teller and craftsmanlike in his direction. If this film wins several of the academy awards for which it has been nominated, it will be neither a disappointment nor a surprise. Even in face of this year's strong British challenge.
The latest Agatha Christie story to be brought to the screen is Ordeal By Innocence ("15", Classic Haymarket). Like other recent treatments of her work it involves a very impressive cast — the sort of actors and actresses who could play these roles while watching something on the stove.
About 30 years ago, in Devon, Jack Argyle (played by Billy McColl) has been executed for the murder of his mother, Rachel (Faye Dunaway). Wrongly executed, as it turns out, when Dr Arthur Calgary (Donald Sutherland) arrives to confirm Jack's alibi. No one, however, seems concerned that justice should be done to the dead man's memory. Except, Dr Calgary, who sets out to find the real murderer.
In the interests of suspense, the Argyle family and their retainers — among them Diana Quick, Sarah Miles, Annette Crosbie and Christophei Plummer — are required to look suspicious. Everyone in Dartmouth seems to have wild eyes and homicidal intentions. Who is the murderer? Well. it's hard to care, especially when the wrongly accused Jack proves to have been only slightly less nasty than everyone insisted and the victim about as loveable as Lucrezia Borgia. Dr Calgary and Donald Sutherland have, it seems, both been wasting their time.