A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Monty Python’s Life of Brian

April 24, 2011

Monty Python’s Life of Brian

Last year on Easter we watched Jesus Christ Superstar for the movie a day project. That wasn’t nearly sacrilegious for us, so tonight we move on to something a little more satirical. My opinion of this film has evolved a great deal over time. In my youth I would have claimed that it wasn’t ‘zany’ enough. I have always had a great fondness for Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which in my teenaged years was right up there with Spaceballs as one of the greatest comedies ever made. Holy Grail is all madcap classic Python humor. There was a time when that kind of pure simplicity appealed to me above all else. But I’ve started to become more jaded as I head into middle age and pure wackyness doesn’t have quite the appeal it used to.

This movie is a lot more subtle and sly than other Python works. It is also the most linear in its plot – telling a clear story based around the tribulations of a single character. In that way it’s a Python movie for a more mature audience, I think, and it has slowly, over the years, risen in my esteem to be my favorite Monty Python work, and amongst my favorite comedies.

Part of the appeal is the simple narrative arc of the film. Where most Python is composed of shorter vignettes this film takes a single character, the hapless Brian of the title, and follows him exclusively as he struggles to capture the eye of a girl he is infatuated with and gets drawn into a resistance movement trying to oust the Romans from Jerusalem. All of this takes place at the same time as the events at the end of the life of Jesus, and we do see Jesus a couple times in the film, but that’s decidedly not what this movie is about. Part of what is so brilliant and subversive about this movie is that it doesn’t set out to say anything in particular about Jesus, but it instead pokes fun at the attitudes of people desperately looking for an messiah.

In some ways Brian’s life parallels that of Jesus. He is visited by three wise men when he is a baby in a manger in Nazareth (who later realize their mistake and take their gifts next door to the clearly much more divine manger there.) He is amongst the multitudes listening to the sermon on the mount (way in the back where they can’t quite hear him.) And, yes, he gets crucified in the end.

The parts of this movie I love most however are not the parts having directly to do with Jesus or even those lampooning him, but those parts having to do with the simple minded people who latch on to Brian as their messiah. There are a couple absolutely biting scenes of people following him. They argue about the significance of a dropped sandle. They take perfectly mundane happenings around him to be miracles. (“Of course they brought forth juniper berries – they’re juniper bushes!) They congregate in enormous numbers outside his home and hang on his every word – but don’t seem to listen to him at all. In my favorite part of the entire movie he tells the mob that they should learn to think for themselves. “You are all different” he says. “We ARE all different!” the crowd chants back except for one individual who says “I’m not.”

The writing throughout the movie is that kind of caliber. Every scene in here is gold from the Roman centurion who criticises Brian’s latin to the stall owner who refuses to let Brian buy a beard without haggling there are constant laughs and a very clever humor to the entire movie. This is the most irreverent, witty, and actually smart of the Monty Python films. It pokes fun at mindless obedience and dependence on others for what and how to think, which is something the world needs more of. Anything that encourages the masses to think for themselves is to be encouraged I believe.

I wouldn’t characterize this movie as sacrilegious, but then again I don’t consider myself a devoutly religious person anyhow. If I were to attempt to define my own system of belief then I’d have to say that “think for yourself” would be amongst my closely held tenets. As such I love this movie more with each viewing. A mature comedy for mature Python fans. How I wish there were more.

April 24, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,


  1. Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.

    Comment by Doc Wheat | April 28, 2011 | Reply

    • Technically that’s Meaning of Life.

      Comment by tanatoes | April 28, 2011 | Reply

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