For reasons having nothing to do with the obscure films post, I recently had the opportunity to see Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (for perhaps the fifth or sixth time). It’s a close call between that and Casablanca for my all-time favorite movie — how can you go wrong combining Kafka and Orwell with Monty Python and Tom Stoppard? (Brazil, I mean, not Casablanca.)
Of course there is a wonderful backstory to the making of the movie, in which Universal studios chopped up the movie to make a “love conquers all” version with a happy ending, which Gilliam refused to have his name associated with. Fortunately that version never got released, as Gilliam resorted (intentionally or not) to a fiendishly clever strategy: he surreptitiously showed his version to groups of film critics, and the LA film critics society awarded its “best picture of the year” award to a movie that hadn’t even been released. The awards, which Universal would much have preferred go to its other movie Out of Africa, embarassed the studio into letting Gilliam’s version be distributed, albeit without any support.
You can read all sorts of fun trivia in the Brazil FAQ. My favorite is this: Sidney Scheinberg, president of Universal and the man in charge of the happy-ending version, decided he didn’t like the title, and solicited suggestions from his staff. (To be fair, the title would have made less for his version; in Gilliam’s version there is an elaborate soundtrack by Michael Kamen that is constructed primarily out of variations of the song “Brazil,” all of which was replaced in Scheinberg’s version by rock music, to attract teenagers.) Here are the suggested replacement titles:
- If Osmosis, Who Are You?
- Some Day Soon
- Day Dreams and Night Tripper
- What a Future!
- The Works
- Skylight City
- You Show Me Your Dream…
- Arresting Developments
- Nude Descending Bathroom Scale
- Lords of the Files
- The Staplegunners
- Forever More
- The Right to Bear Arms
- Explanada Fortunata Is Not My Real Name
- All Too Soon
- Where Were We?
- Disconnected Parties
- Shadow Time
- Forces of Darkness
- The Man in the Custom Tailored T-shirt
- Fold, Spindle, Mutilate
- Can’t Anybody Here Play the Cymbals?
- Sign on High
- The Ball Bearing Electro Memory Circuit Buster
- This Escalator Doesn’t Stop At Your Station
- Gnu Yak, Gnu Yak, and Other Bestial Places
I can’t for the life of me understand what they were thinking for most of these. (Okay, I kind of like “Litterbugs.”) I suspect they had a thought process along the lines of “Well, the movie’s kind of weird, so let’s make the title … weird!” I’ve had my own battles with Physical Review over titles of my papers, but nothing like this.