Thursday, March 11, 2010

Monty Python's Life of Brian

“What did he say?”
“I think it was ‘Blessed are the cheese makers.’”
“What’s so special about the cheese makers?”
“Well, obviously it’s not meant to be taken literally; it refers to any manufacturers of dairy products.”

That exchange occurs in the very back row of the audience at the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is just a speck on the horizon, barely audible. The characters are straining to hear him. Some can’t wait to leave so they can attend a nearby stoning.

What can I say that hasn’t already been said about “Monty Python’s Life of Brian?” It’s one of the funniest, most endlessly quotable, and most irreverent comedies of all time. Maybe it doesn’t have moments to quite compare with the Black Knight or the killer rabbit from their “Holy Grail,” but it is overall the Python’s most consistently grand outing.

It tells the tale of a man named Brian, who once was a baby and boy and a teenager named Brian (so the hilarious title song tells us). His misfortune was to be born at the same time and in the same place as Jesus and he’ll never be able to live it down. His is a life of being forever mistaken for the Messiah.

It all begins with his being born in a stable – just adjacent to a more famous one. A bit lost, the Three Wise Men stop by bearing gifts. Brian’s mother tells them, “If you’re dropping by again, do pop in. And thanks a lot for the gold and frankincense, but don’t worry too much about the myrrh next time.”

His travails continue during his rebellious days. As an initiation to the revolutionary group the People’s Front of Judea, he’s ordered to paint “Romans go home” on the palace walls. But, when he’s caught in the act by guards, he isn’t arrested. He’s schooled in Latin. Guard: “But ‘Domus’ takes the locative, which is…?” Brian: “Er, ‘Domum!’” Guard: “Understand? Now, write it a hundred times.”

Brian also has run-ins with an ex-leper who’s upset because Jesus cured him, taking away his begging occupation. In need of a disguise, he tries to buy a fake beard from a merchant who insists that they haggle over a price. He even gets whisked away briefly into outer space by an alien spaceship in the movie’s most deliciously absurd moment.

Ultimately, it ends as the story must, I suppose, with a crucifixion. And it’s a great, unforgettable, classic ending. Every time I’ve rented the movie on VHS or DVD over the years, I’ve watched the final moments repeatedly. Remember, “Life’s a laugh and death’s a joke; it’s true. So, always look on the bright side of life…”

The movie has many fans, but few of them have seen it on the big screen. And it will look especially grand this Thursday at the Grand Theater. Don’t miss this opportunity. It’s certainly the best movie in town this week.

“Monty Python’s Life of Brian” doesn’t currently have a rating from the MPAA. Back in 1978, it was rated R for language and brief nudity. I know. It was my first ‘R’ rated movie when I was 17 and I remember feeling disappointed. I thought, “I’ve waited 17 years to see ‘R’ rated movies and that’s it – some swear words and a shot of a naked guy?”

The movie shows at the Grand Theatres on Thursday, March 25 at 3:00 and 5:30 as part of the Cinema 100 Film Society series. Tickets are available at the door.

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