Boy do I love this movie.
The thing that people always level at Monty Python and sketch comedy in general is that it’s very hit and miss, now Life of Brian is definitely that. However, Monty Python and the Holy Grail is not that, it is incredibly consistant, mainly because the plot is so incosequential. All the plot acts as is a stimulus for sketches, it a lovely little washing horse, on which to hang the clean washing off all these lovely little comedy sketch peices. It is anarchic, makes no sense and completely means to, and it just incredibly funny. I love it.
Just because I know you’ll all shout at me if I don’t follow my developed review formula I’ll tell you the plot even though this plot has been in popular mythology for fucking ages, since stories were told really. King Arthur rounds up kingts of Camelot, then they go off to find the holy grail. It’s Monty Python doing Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade but in the original medieval England.
That is actually part of what makes this film a superior work in the Monty Python catalogue. This film is directed by Terry Gilliam, who as I’ve said before I love, and one thing he demonstrates in works like Brazil is a real ability to utilise the world of the film. Now recently we had the film What We Do in the Shadows, which works because they put effort and love into the production design. We have this wave of American comedies, which I have nothing against, like Bridesmaids and that kind of thing where the production design is really secondary, incedantally I think Anchorman is probably the best of that lot because it puts the most effort into that. A skill which Adam Mackay would later demonstrate with aplomb with the Oscar winning The Big Short. Life of Brian is directed by Holy Grail co-director Tery Adams and it shows. Because of the work of Terry Gilliam, who self admitedly was more resposible for the visuals than anything else in this form, because of his work, the joke “how’d you know he’s the king” “well he’s the only one not covered in shit” works.
At the same time Monty Python are all just incredibly witty and fun on screen presences, and all their characters are distinct, and clearly cut, and a lot of the comedy is actually character comedy and it works really well, as well as their ‘throw everything at the wall’ technique which really works better here than it does at any other time. I know Life of Brian is probably cleverer with it’s subvertion of the religious epic, and the jokes are probably cleverer, but I just laughed more at Monty Python and The Holy Grail.