Sunday, 2 November 2014

BFI Screening of Brazil in the presence of Terry Gilliam himself

Terry Gilliam and me last night 
After our 3-hour lunch, discussing Brazil, back in 1991. Photo taken by Ray Cooper. More of my Brazil photos here:
"In Terry Gilliam’s distinctly British ‘retro-futurist’ take on George Orwell’s nightmare prophecy, omniscient state bureaucracy runs mad. The film follows low-level technocrat and fantasist Sam Lowry (Pryce) as he attempts to rectify an administrative error that has seen an innocent man arrested while the real ‘enemy,’ Tuttle (De Niro), roams free. All the while, Lowry pursues Jill (Kim Greist), the girl of his dreams. The visual invention, social commentary and dark wit of Brazil still astonishes, in what may well be Gilliam’s masterpiece." James Bell, BFI
How often do you get a chance to have your favourite film introduced by its director, have him watch the film with you and then listen to him discuss it in a Q&A afterwards? Well, almost never, but that's exactly what happened last night for me!

When I saw Brazil for the first time in 1986, it was a major and significant event in my life. It was almost a religious experience for Pete's sake! Since then, the film has loomed large in my life. I've visited many of its filming locations and met many of its cast and crew (several by complete coincidence, including Terry himself back in 1991), but that's a pipe of a different colour. If I was ever to write an autobiography, the Brazil chapter would take up a lot of pages.

So last night was very special for me. I've met Terry many times over the years now, including a 3-hour lunch back in 1991 to talk about Brazil, and I had a nice chat with him last night too. I tried to listen to what he was saying, but it was difficult because of the voice in my head which was louder than his, saying,
"Wow, you're talking with Terry Gilliam! Can you believe that?"
I had to make sure he remembered me first. I was in the front row, clearly visible to him throughout the Q&A and he said that he had been looking at me, trying to figure out why he recognized me. I didn't tell him anything about winning the BFI competition as the biggest Monty Python fan, nor about appearing in Molly Lavik's book because of my Python Passion: "Going Supernova - The Bold Paths of 101 Superachievers", nor did I tell him about the fact that Python has shaped my whole life, influencing my marriage, and that I found my new love through the Monty Python dating Facebook group I set up. Maybe I should have done, but this was his show, not mine.

What I did ask him was where all the Brazil props have ended up. He told me he has one of the masks (I think he meant the one that Michael Palin wore), the flying Sam model and an Executive Toy ("Something  an executive") but he really didn't know where all the rest went. I told him I had heard that the film's producer Arnon Michan has the samurai warrior suit and he had heard the same, and he thinks maybe Arnon has more props too. So, I now want to contact Arnon. How the hell do I do that? Any ideas anyone?

The reason for the film's screening last night? It was part of the BFI's "Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder: Tomorrow’s World" season - which is ironic because Terry explained during the Q&A that he never intended Brazil to be a Sci-Fi film at all. He said it was really a political cartoon that was taking place in a time that was a combination of past, present and future.

I assume Brazil will be back on the agenda next year for its 30th anniversary. One question that never came up during the Q&A was whether Terry thinks Brazil is his masterpiece or whether he's fed up with people going on about it, wishing they would talk about his more recent work. Maybe I'll ask him that next time. What do you think?

The autographs and photos begins even before the film. It was such an informal event and Terry was so approachable.
Terry saying silly things before the film (he couldn't find his seat)

Terry taking his seat
Terry is invited on stage for the Q&A after the screening; he pretends to fall over on going up the steps, of course

Terry and I have a nice little chat

I get to meet Elaine Carew who was one of the make up artists on Brazil.
Ray Cooper was also present (but I've already got a photo with him)
BFI staff told me this rarely happens. The director or celeb usually disappear sharpish after a Q&A. He was so generous with his time. Everybody loves Terry Gilliam!

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