For Easter: “Life of Brian” (1979)

 

life of brian

Brian’s followers react to the discovery of their beloved messiah’s sandal

This being Holy Week, I was preparing myself for a review of a rather serious foreign rendition of the Passion.  My husband then asked, “Oh, couldn’t you do something funny?  So many of the movies you review are serious.”

Wish granted.  This week, I’m reviewing 1979’s Life of Brian.

Between 1969 and 1974, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) aired a television show featuring sketches written and performed by a comedy troup billing themselves as “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”  Monty Python’s inspired blend of surrealism and absurdity quickly caught on in the United Kingdom and the U.S.  Bolstered by their success on both sides of “the Pond,” the group began producing full-length films featuring the comedic style that made their television show so popular.  One film, 1975’s Holy Grail (a parody of the legend of King Arthur) eventually spawned a musical called Spamelot.

Monty Python’s second film, Life of Brian, is essentially a parody of just about any Biblical epic produced during the 1950’s and 1960’s.  In fact, the film’s logo is itself a parody of the logo for 1959’s Ben-Hur.  But unlike director William Wyler’s reverential homage to the story of Christ, Life of Brian tweaks almost every religious convention found in Hollywood biblical films.

The plot concerns one Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman), born in Bethlehem around the same time as a Certain Other Person born just down the street.  As in Ben-Hur, Brian’s life parallels the life of Jesus of Nazareth.  However, in Brian the connection between the two is treated comically.  For example, observe what happens when Brian attends Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.  As you will observe in the segment below, the phrase “Blessed are the peacemakers” is seriously misheard by some of the audience.  By the way, Brian is the individual on the viewer’s far right.

And so you have been warned.  Nothing is sacred in this film, which is filled with ribald jokes about the Virgin Birth, the Nativity, Jews, homosexual stereotypes and practices among Romans, the nature of discipleship, and countless other subjects in Biblical movies.  Even the Crucifixion is lampooned when Brian, who has become the reluctant Messiah for a bunch of followers, ends up on a crucifix improbably singing “Look on the Bright Side of Life”(!)

So in conclusion, if you are easily offended by any of the issues I’ve mentioned in this post, please do NOT watch this film.  However, if you wish to see some inspired bits of absurdist comedy, you will find it here.

To obtain a DVD copy of Life of Brianclick onto the following link:

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*****

Pluses:   Several moments of inspired comedy.

Minus:  The film generally works as a series of sketches, some funnier than others.

Cast:  Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Kenneth Colley, Spike Milligan, George Harrison (yes, one of the Beatles!), Gwen Taylor, Susan Jones.

Director:  Terry Jones

Rating:  R  (sexual jokes, profanity, brief full frontal male nudity)

In Color, with some animation

Length:  92 minutes

Sources:

“Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”  Wikipedia:  The Free Encyclopedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.   30 March 2017.  Web.  13 April 2017.

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