Monday, March 20, 2017

Monty Python’s Life of Brian 1979 Directed by Terry Jones

I first saw Life of Brian on opening weekend, in Boston with a small group of friends and a couple hundred nuns and priests trying to see it before the pope banned it. There  were protesters along the line that had formed outside the theatre as people waited to get in to the soon to be sold out showing and the people in line passed the time mocking them. 

The reception to the film by the audience was fantastic, people laughed hysterically and appreciated the style, humour and parody. This is a rare comedy that stands up almost 40 years later. There are some parts here and there that, while still funny, might make some younger, first time viewers cringe as the movie uses some pretty harsh racial slurs at one point. Thing is, it’s obvious to anyone with 2 brain cells that those words are being exposed for how stupid and ridiculous they are. It could be argued that Monty Python had the foresight to inoculate themselves from the sometimes too politically correct present by mocking it in advance and exposing how foolish and self serving some "revolutionists" can be.

Is the film blasphemous?
Nope, it’s not, despite the groaning and moaning from some quarters. In fact, the comedy group could be accused of being overly careful not to offend religious groups. This, as usual, did not stop the film from being banned in many places and - as if often the case - gave the film a publicity boost it might not have had otherwise. The Pythons deeply researched the era and subject of the film while writing it and to be completely honest, it’s many times more historically accurate than ANY of the approved biblical epics produced before it. The film goes out of its way to show that is NOT about Jesus Christ by including him in the film as background and to make the situation of the main character, Brian Cohen, even more funny as he has been mistaken for "the messiah" or "a messiah" on and off since birth - having been born on the manger down the street from Jesus and later when he spouts nonsense pretending to be a street prophet to escape the Roman guards who are chasing him because of some graffiti he wrote. Overall, I would say the film is more political than religious satire.

Is the film funny? 
Oh my god (pardon the pun) is it ever! Its filled with bizarre situations, quotable lines and classic bits. Who doesn’t know the Roman Centurion Bickus Dickus? I don’t know how they accomplish it, but even though all the main actors play multiple parts, you never confuse them and the story moves along quickly - even though by todays standards the editing might be considered less than lightning paced. How many films end with a mass cruxifixction musical number that leaves you singing and whistling?  Only this one! 


T' said...

Didn't see this when it came out, but I did get to see it on the big screen at the Harvard Square when that was still a thing. Every time the church bans something or protests it, you can bet it will sell more tickets than if it weren't. This isn't my favorite Python film but it is good. Even Holy Grail probably looked more like its time line than any other so called Fantasy Film. I'll try and write something soon.

Behemoth media said...

I think you are right about Holy grail s well now that I think about it. They really made and effort to know what they were talking about before parodying it. I have been writing things when I have time and then using the scheduling feature to space out when they get published something I hadn't thought about before!

Spuddie said...

My favorite story related to Life of Brian is that of the survivors of the HMS Sheffield. They purportedly sang "Bright Side of Life" while bobbing in the water waiting to be rescued after their ship was sunk by a missile.

It is also the #3 song sung at British funerals

Behemoth media said...

I've have never heard either of things! I can believe them easily though, that song is so hard to get out of your head and it's oddly appropriate for such occasions.