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.

Vixens, Vamps, and Tramps: “Waking Ned Devine” (1998)

 

Waking Ned DevineBuddies Michael (David Kelly) and Jackie (Ian Bannen) make the best of a “grave” situation

Friday is St. Paddy’s Day, and my goal this week has been to review an Irish movie with a vixen, vamp, or tramp.  I found a “twofer”(two questionable women) in writer/director Kirk Jones’ delightful 1998 comedy, Waking Ned Devine.

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The tiny Irish hamlet of Tully More has received an enormous windfall.  One of their own, Ned Devine, has won the Irish Lottery.  There’s just one problem……

Ned is dead.

You heard it right.  As soon as he got the good news on TV, the elderly gentleman passed away from pure shock.  So it looks like nobody wins any money this year.  Or……. maybe someone will, because pals Michael (David Kelly) and Jackie (Ian Bannen) are determined to grab that jackpot come hell or high water.

The remainder of this story involves the scheming pair’s attempts to finagle their way into Ned’s millions, and the problems they encounter in doing so.  For example, they have to convince the lotto officials that Ned is still alive.  And how will the rest of the villagers react when they hear the truth of the matter?

Aside from hilarious scenes involving Michael and Jackie’s efforts in securing the lotto money, there are small pleasures as we encounter various supporting characters in the village.  For example, there’s the village priest, Father Patrick (Dermont Kerrigan), who spends his time trying to explain religion to a rather doubtful little tyke named Maurice (played by Robert Hickey).  Maurice is the illegitimate son of the town dish, lovely Maggie O’Toole (Susan Lynch), who spends her time enticing Pig (James Nesbitt) and Pat (Fintan McKeown).  Are either of these men the father of Maurice?  Is it someone else?  All is revealed at the end of the story.

The second questionable female in Tully More is a most irascible curmudgeon by the name of Lizzy Quinn (Eileen Dromey).  “Lizzy the Witch” is so mean that she delights in trying to run over people with her geriatric scooter.  Although a minor player, Lizzy is an important element in the plot.  Why?  Can’t tell you that.  You’ll just have to draw yourself a pint of Guinness and wait it out until end of show.

You can download the digital version of Waking Ned Devine or purchase the DVD by clicking onto the following amazon.com link:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00000ILEC/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=spcooperveriz-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B00000ILEC&linkId=63edfd5275813ca4c34b7f2c67d6c09c

Pluses:   Funny performances from veteran actors Kelly and Bannon, who provide several laugh-out-loud moments.  Well-written story with clever denouement.  Gorgeous location shots filmed in Cregneash, Isle of Man, Ireland.

Minus:  Takes a bit of effort getting used to the Irish brogue.

Cast:  David Kelly, Ian Bannan, Fionnula Flanagan, James Nesbitt, Susan Lynch, Fintan McKeown, Jimmy Keogh, Brendan Dempsey, Eileen Dromey.

Director:  Kirk Jones

Rating:  PG (nudity, language, thematic elements)

In color

Length:  91 minutes