By Sven Mikulec
Simply one of the best comedies ever to hit the screen, Life of Brian is a brilliant religious satire from the endlessly inspired Monty Python, and as such easily stands among our favorites. Four years after highly praised Monty Python and the Holy Grail, six legendary British comedians joined forces once again, telling an achingly hilarious story of a simple man whose greatest misfortune was the fact that he was Jesus’ neighbor and contemporary. Heavily criticized by the Catholic church for its blasphemous, heretic nature, banned in many countries, including Norway, Ireland and even a lot of places in Britain, the film is an intelligently framed comment on the insincerity and hollowness of organized religion, a crucially posed question on a matter still extremely delicate, a poignantly humorous jab at both the Church and the British political situation at the time, especially its left-wing politics.
Written together by all of the Pythons, directed by Terry Jones, Life of Brian wouldn’t even have seen the light of day if former Beatle George Harrison hadn’t invested his own money through his HandMade Films production company, since the film’s original backer EMI chickened out at the last minute due to its controversial subject matter and possibly furious backlash it might lead to. The reactions from religious conservatives, it seems, only did Brian a favor—it became the highest grossing British film in North America that year. What we find especially praiseworthy, however, is the fact that this talented bunch resisted temptation to deliver any cheap shots at the Church or the concept of faith, but used quality humor and clever satire to point out the absurdities and hypocrisies of organized religion in general. Life of Brian is as entertaining as comedy gets and as clever as you’d expect from a group that redefined the meaning of funny and raised the standards for all to come.
Screenwriter must-read: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones & Michael Palin’s screenplay for Life of Brian [PDF]. (NOTE: For educational and research purposes only). The DVD of the film is available from the Criterion Collection in a widescreen digital transfer approved by director Terry Jones. Life of Brian is also available on Blu-ray at Amazon and other online retailers. Absolutely our highest recommendation.
The Pythons: Somewhere in Tunisia, Circa A.D. 1979, a documentary shot on location during the making of Life of Brian. Although the documentary isn’t specifically about the production of Life of Brian it does give a hilarious insight into the mood while shooting.
Just one of the most beautiful moments in televisual history, Friday Night, Saturday Morning: Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
The making of Monty Python’s Life of Brian in 1979. Photographed by David Appleby © Orion/Courtesy Everett Collection. Intended for editorial use only. All material for educational and noncommercial purposes only.
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