OUCH! by MR.E.

OUCH! by MR.E.

Friday, June 20, 2014


Monty Python's Life of Brian, is a 1979 British comedy film starring and written by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin, and directed by Jones.  It tells the story of Brian Cohen (played by Chapman), a young Jewish man who is born on the same day as, and next door to, Jesus Christ and is subsequently mistaken for the Messiah.

The film contains themes of religious satire that were controversial at the time of its release, drawing accusations of blasphemy and protests from some religious groups.  Thirty-nine local authorities in the UK either imposed an outright ban, or imposed an X (18 years) certificate, effectively preventing the film from being shown, as the distributors said the film could not be shown unless it was unedited and carried the original AA (14) certificate.  Some countries, including Ireland and Norway, banned its showing, with a few of these bans lasting decades.  The film makers used such notoriety to benefit their marketing campaign, with posters stating "So funny it was banned in Norway!"

Brian Cohen is born in a stable next door to the one in which Jesus is born, which initially confuses the three wise men who come to praise the future King of the Jews.  Brian grows up an idealistic young man who resents the continuing Roman occupation of Judea.  While attending Jesus's Sermon on the Mount, Brian becomes infatuated with an attractive young rebel, Judith.  His desire for her and hatred for the Romans lead him to join the People's Front of Judea, one of many fractious and bickering independence movements, who spend more time fighting each other than the Romans.


After several misadventures, and escaping from Pontius Pilate, the fugitive winds up in a line-up of would-be mystics and prophets who harangue the passing crowd in a plaza.  Forced to come up with something plausible in order to blend in and keep the guards off his back, Brian babbles pseudo-religious truisms, and quickly attracts a small but intrigued audience.  Once the guards have left, Brian tries to put the episode behind him, but he has unintentionally inspired a movement.  He grows frantic when he finds that some people have started to follow him around, with even the slightest unusual occurrence being hailed as a "miracle."  After slipping away from the mob, Brian runs into Judith, and they spend the night together.  In the morning, Brian opens the curtains to discover an enormous crowd of people outside his mother's house, all proclaiming him to be the Messiah.  Brian's mother protests: "He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy."  Brian finds himself unable to change their minds, because his every word and action are immediately seized as points of doctrine.


The hapless Brian finds no solace at the PFJ's headquarters, where people fling their afflicted bodies at him demanding miracle cures.  After sneaking out the back, Brian finally is captured and scheduled to be crucified.  Meanwhile, a huge crowd has assembled outside the palace.  Pilate (together with the visiting Biggus Dickus) tries to quell the feeling of revolution by granting them the decision of who should be pardoned.  The crowd, however, simply shouts out names containing the letter "r," in order to mock Pilate's speech impediment.  Eventually, Judith appears in the crowd and calls for the release of Brian, which the crowd echoes, since the name contains the letter "r."  Pilate then agrees to "welease Bwian.


The order from Pilate is eventually relayed to the guards, but in a moment parodying the climax of the film Spartacus, various crucified people all claim to be "Brian of Nazareth" (one man shouting "I'm Brian and so's my wife") and the wrong man is released.  Various other opportunities for a reprieve for Brian are denied as, one by one, his "allies" (including Judith and his mother) step forward to explain why they are leaving the "noble freedom fighter" hanging in the hot sun.  Hope is renewed when a crack suicide squad from the Judean People's Front (not to be confused with the PFJ) come charging towards the Romans, but rather than fighting to release Brian they commit mass suicide as a political statement.  Condemned to a long and painful death, Brian finds his spirits lifted by his fellow sufferers, who break into song with "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."


Monty Python's Flying Circus, a British television comedy sketch show that first aired on the BBC on October 5, 1969.  Forty-five episodes were made over four series.  The Python phenomenon developed from the television series into something larger in scope and impact, spawning touring stage shows, films, numerous albums, several books and a stage musical as well as launching the members to individual stardom.  The group's influence on comedy has been compared to The Beatles' influence on music.


Broadcast by the BBC from 1969 to 1974, was a loosely structured as a sketch show, but with an innovative stream-of-consciousness approach (aided by Gilliam's animation), it pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable in style and content.  A self-contained comedy team responsible for both writing and performing their work, the Pythons had creative control which allowed them to experiment with form and content, discarding rules of television comedy.  Their influence on British comedy has been apparent for years, while in North America it has coloured the work of cult performers from the early editions of Saturday Night Live through to more recent absurdist trends in television comedy.  "Pythonesque" has entered the English lexicon as a result.


The Pythons used the British tradition of cross-dressing comedy by donning frocks and makeup and playing female roles themselves while speaking in falsetto.  Jones was specialized in playing the working class housewife, Palin and Idle being generally more posh.  The other members played female roles more sparsely.  Generally speaking, female roles were played by women only when the scene specifically required that the character be sexually attractive (although sometimes they used Idle for this).  The troupe later turned to Carol Cleveland, who co-starred in numerous episodes after 1970.


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