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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Inspirations: Brazil by Terry Gilliam



I first saw Terry Gilliam's Brazil in Liverpool, in maybe 1986, on a microscopic screen in a private cinema at the Bluecoat Chambers, which was the only place you could see it in 1986 (this was before the rise of commercial arthouse cinemas, and before home video was readily available). I've seen it on a giant screen since then, and now I have the Criterion 3-disc DVD edition, but that crowded weird little space - in which I also saw The Return of Martin Guerre, Alan Parker's Birdy, and probably several other films I no longer recall - seemed somehow apiece with the distorted relationships of scale visible within the film.

I knew almost nothing of the legendary story of Brazil's production, in which the film was withheld by the studio in charge of production until Gilliam finally took out a full-page ad in Variety asking them when they were going to release it (in the absence of a Variety subscription, there was no way to find out such things in Liverpool in 1986).

It was because of films like Brazil that I lost my unquestioning allegiance to books. After Brazil, the novel was no longer a privileged art form, no longer D. H. Lawrence's one bright book of life. Five Wounds is written in the light of that revelation.

(Gilliam's earlier Jabberwocky is also a big influence on the black humour in Five Wounds, and on the book's pseudo-medieval aspects.)

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