Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I'm not a roman mum, I'm a kike, a yid, a heebie, a hook-nose, I'm kosher mum, I'm a Red Sea pedestrian, and proud of it!

No 203 - Life of Brian
Director - Terry Jones

Three wise men follow a star to a stable in Bethlehem where they find a small boy wrapped in swaddling clothes and offer him gifts of Gold and Frankincense and Myrrh. You just can't get any more Christmassy than that, can you?
And so begins Life of Brian - a film about a young man who has spent many moments of his life being mistaken for Jesus. A film which is not blasphemous really. It isn't an attack on anyone's individual faith or an attack on anyone's individual beliefs, it is just a pretty acerbic (and surprisingly clever) look at organised religion as a whole. I don't think it deserves half the 'outrage' it received.


Once you get over the religious undertones (if that is the thing which may rankle you) - you have Monty Python's most intelligent and well structured film. Both Holy Grail and - to a far more obvious extent - the Meaning of Life, are essentially sketch films, with a basic theme linking everything together. Life of Brian is still a very segmented film but it works as an entirety, it has character development and plot arcs..... well, as much as you can ever expect from the Monty Python troupe.
Although it is a complete film, the Pythons' great strength is in creating insane little sketches, and here there are many scenes which work on their own in their own right. The film relishes taking a simple idea and skewing it to ridiculous degrees, whether it is a stoning, a cut throat grammar lesson or the inspired thought of what happened to the lame after Jesus healed them. I'm not going to talk about them individually - besides saying they're brilliant. They'd be brilliant sketches but here they're just little moments of genius in a constantly great film. Also, how great of Monty Python to have stuck all their stuff on YouTube.... that makes my life easier.
However, the only issue to come from the coherent storyline is that Terry Giliam's section no longer has a neat place to slot into. There is one little moment of sheer inspired lunacy, but it does jar completely from the rest of the film - even though the rest of the film is mental, alien abduction (which remains completely unexplained) is a big departure from the world they've made. A world full of brilliantly subtle comedic moments (such as every character having a completely mundane name or being named after a book in the Bible....) as well as the broader, weirder humour.

Once the masses discover Brian, the film begins to look at the notion of religion, at the notion of human dogma and at the ridiculousness of it all. We have a film which tackles the same core subject matter as The Invention of Lying, only does it much much better....

....with the inclusion of one of the greatest, most pure and joyous songs ever written.

ALL TOGETHER NOW