A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 275 – Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl

Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl – November 30th, 2010

Tonight was going to be another vampire movie. I checked the list earlier today and saw that Blood: The Last Vampire (the anime) was on our list and the running time we had listed said 83 minutes. Perfect for a Tuesday night and something a little different than the Underworld trilogy. So we popped it in when I got home and then, about 20 minutes in, when I went looking for some information about whether it was based on books or what, I saw that the running time was considerably shorter than 83 minutes. Less than an hour. But the box did indeed say 83 minutes. So we kept watching. I decided maybe the version we had was 83 minutes because the English dialogue had been sloooooooooowed doooooooown (seriously, it is massively distracting how slowly the English dialogue bits go). But no. Those 83 minutes apparently include the special documentary included on the disc. So we spent 48 minutes tonight watching that and then realized we needed a full movie. And it needed to be short because it was after 10 by then. Monty Python to the rescue!

We didn’t have this on our list at first. Somehow it got shelved with our television DVDs and never made it onto the list. And then one evening I was looking at the list and thought “Hey, didn’t we watch that not too long ago? Where is it?” So I guess this is a good one to watch tonight, having already watched one that shouldn’t have been on the list. It’s also one we know super well. After all, it’s almost all material from the shows we know so well. It’s sort of like And Now For Something Completely Different in that respect, but done for a huge live audience, complete with all the things that can happen with a live performance.

What makes this really stand out in terms of Monty Python productions is the live audience aspect, really. Funny as the sketches and filmed bits are on their own, add in the guys walking through the audience and shots of the audience reacting and you get a whole new dimension. For one, this audience is obviously very much full of Python fans. They anticipate the lines, shouting them out before the cast can. They sing along with the songs. There’s even some cosplaying going on, with some audience members wearing napkins on their heads. These are people who know and love the material and the cast and are thrilled to see them live. I wish I’d been there myself, but I was a little young at the time. And in Massachusetts. But really, two of my favorite bits of the whole performance take place in the audience. There’s the albatross sketch, which takes place with John Cleese in the middle of the audience trying to sell his albatross. The audience loves it and the lucky folks in the seats near where he’s walking all turn and get a few moments in the spotlight. One woman tweaks the beak of the albatross. The other bit I love is Eric Idle heading off into the audience, wandering up and down the aisles as he delivers an endless monologue about how horrible going on holiday can be. He goes up one aisle and down another, climbs over the seats and into other sections, evades John Cleese, who’s chasing him, and the whole while he’s talking, never once breaking verbal stride. It’s the sort of thing that just wouldn’t play the same on a set. It needs an audience to happen.

Obviously with a stage performance there will be the inevitable issues. There are always issues with a live performance. I learned that well doing theater years back. The thing is, most things the audience never sees, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. And you just have to run with it. Terry Jones’ wig flies off during the church police sketch and the whole cast starts giggling. But they finish it all! The show goes on and it’s great fun to see that these guys find what they’re doing just as ridiculous as the audience does. They’re having fun doing it, and that’s fantastic.

There are a few bits in the live performance that aren’t from the regular episodes of the show. There’s a speech about the nature of physical comedy, performed by Graham Chapman with live demonstrations of banana peel gags and board-in-the-face bits, ending with some fantastic pie jokes. There are a few songs, which I admit I’m not overly fond of. And then there are the filmed sections. I would guess that they were originally included as breaks for the cast so they could clean up, change costumes and get ready for what’s next, but the bits they picked? Are the German bits. The Python crew made some material for German audiences that didn’t really air in the US. I taped it off television once and some of it was older sketches re-done in German, and some of it was brand new material. So as far as I can tell, all or most of the audience for this performance was seeing new Python material in those film clips. That had to have been fantastic for them.

Overall, while the live show doesn’t present a whole lot in terms of brand new material, it’s more than worth watching. There’s a number of fantastic favorite sketches, some sketches that aren’t the big favorites but are great all the same, and some stuff that isn’t classic Python but fits right in. But it’s the audience that makes it. Even if I wasn’t in it at the time, watching this movie makes me feel like I sort of am, or as close as I’m ever going to get. And that’s good enough.

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November 30, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | ,

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