Monty Python’s Life of Brian

For a long time I would have said that Monty Python’s Life of Brian is both the best of the Monty Python films, and the funniest film ever made. Having watched it back to back with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, however, I may have to adjust this opinion slightly. While I still think that Life of Brian is the better film, it doesn’t match the rate of jokes that the earlier film manages, opting instead for things like plot and characters.

The film tells the story of Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman), born on the same day as Jesus in a nearby stable. Growing up under Roman occupation into a somewhat idealistic young man, Brian attends the Sermon on the Mount where he notices Judith (Sue Jones-Davies, who went on to become Mayor of Aberystwyth in 2008 and who lifted the town’s ban on the film).

Judith is a strikingly attractive rebel and Brian’s hormones prompt him to join the People’s Front of Judea, one of the many independence movements striving to free Judea of both the Romans, and each other. After a series of increasingly outrageous misadventures, Brian unintentionally starts a religious movement and is hailed as the Messiah.

Monty Python’s Life of Brian is a much more directly satirical film than Monty Python and the Holy Grail and the film’s targets are much more clear-cut. Having watched the UK Labour Party tear itself apart in the 1980s, and then again more recently with the rise and demise of Corbynism over the past few years, the factionalism and infighting among the various popular and people’s fronts of Judea is still as insightful, funny and relevant as ever.

As for Brian’s followers, the sort of people who will blindly latch onto any religion and then fight over random interpretations… They’re the same as the political fanatics, aren’t they?

Over the years, I have encountered a few people who have told me that they refuse to see this film because someone else told them it’s blasphemous. This always strikes me as a pity because these are the people who most need to watch — and think about — this film.

Monty Python’s Life of Brian is a remarkable film. Beneath the broad silliness and often juvenile humour is an intelligent commentary on power, fanaticism, and all those that seek to rewrite history for their own benefit.

It’s also an incredibly funny film. While this film doesn’t have as many jokes as Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it does have plenty, many of which are much funnier and some of which left me breathless from laughing.

I still think Monty Python’s Life of Brian is the best of the Monty Python films and, off the top of my head, I can’t think of any film that is funnier. If you haven’t already seen it, you should rectify this. Immediately.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

When I was young and foolish, I was quite a fan of Monty Python. Not only the oft repeated TV series, but also the films — especially Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

I’m old and foolish now and it recently occurred to me that I haven’t actually watched any Monty Python for several years. Now seems to be a good time to rectify this.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a film from which I can still quote large chunks of dialogue and yet, watching it again, it steel feels as fresh and funny as ever — if not funnier.

Graham Chapman plays King Arthur as he gathers together his Knights of the Round Table and, after a short detour in which he decides that Camelot is too silly, sends them on a quest to find the Holy Grail.

Narratively speaking, the Pythons’ TV origins are very much on display here, with a very simple plot that primarily serves as an excuse to embark on a series of medieval themed sketches, many of which are very silly indeed.

With hindsight, these sketches can be a bit hit and miss. Some of them I remembered perfectly from the last time I saw this film, others not so much, and there were some that I had completely forgotten about. That said, the jokes come so thick and so fast that the comedy never stops and I found myself laughing heartily from beginning to end.

As with much of the Pythons’ output, the silliness is perfectly timed, incredibly funny and remarkably satirical. The Pythons excelled at puncturing pomposity and poking fun at the sort of religious and political fanaticism that so often defies any kind of sense.

Even the ending has grown on me. I used to feel it was a bit of a cheat but, on this rewatch, it does fit the tone of the film and works remarkably well.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail is still one of the funniest films ever made and, even today, 35 years after it was first released, the film still feels as fresh and relevant as ever — if not more so.

Updated to note that this film was released 45 years ago. Not 35. I can’t do subtraction any more.

He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy

Terry Jones died yesterday at the age of 77.

I remember, many years ago, reading Starship Titaninic, a spin-off from The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy which Jones agreed to write on condition that he could do so in the nude. Or so Douglas Adams claims in the introduction to the novel.

Terry Jones is, of course, best remembered for being part of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and as the director of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, in which he also played Brian’s mum.

This, for my money, is one of the funniest films ever made — if not the funniest. So here is the highlight of a film full of highlights.