Just in time to miss all the fun, Monty Python’s seminal attack on the seminary system and all things religious, “Life of Brian,” has just been resurrected in the theaters for a short run. I’ll admit that I didn’t make it to “Passion” during any of the High Holy Days. I did fast briefly in March as a word-up to the king of kings himself, but I found it to be second-rate compared to eating – especially when you’ve got Freebirds (Am I right or am I right?). Perhaps the triumph of the willing scared me off of the film, or maybe watching all nine of the sociohistorical infomercials that played ad infinitum on Trinity Broadcasting Network showed me enough clips to make the full length redundant. In Mel’s defense, this studio/god cross-promotion has been made sane by noting that Red Bull is now an “Ella Enchanted” Ralph’s club buy… yum, synergy drinks. Hey Joe, I’m starting to feel real lost in the supermarket these days.
So I didn’t see “Passion” and I fucked up and I’m sorry. Take my guilt and pray on me. Totally going to rent it though… I’ll even watch the outtakes and goofs if I’m promised a rosemary anointment of some kind. Hopefully, there will be a bonus feature of Mel discussing the time God telepathically told him to make “What Women Want” or at least a hidden Easter egg of Jim Caviezel morphing into a cracker.
Well, enough with all the petty “Passion” bashin’. I am reviewing a separate movie, right? Yes, and true to their usual selves, John Cleese and the boys made a film in 1979 that is even more relevant now than it was then. Apparently, there is some catch in the Bible. Yep, turns out it’s just a book and you can do whatever you want. This basically means you can read it and love it or you can think the seven worthwhile pages get lost in a good deal of Pythonesque silliness. On the other hand, even I have to admit that it’s leagues and cubits more entertaining than Darwin, so what better source material could you ask for?
“The Life of Brian” takes these revelations and makes it all seem obscenely funny, and it’s so good-natured that only a real stuck-up could scream “blasphemy.” Graham Chapman plays loveable Brian, a normal guy in Judea just trying to do what’s right. Somewhere along the way, his common sense gets confused for preaching, and a cavalry of the disenchanted decide he’s the real deal. I won’t draw any strict parallels, but the argument over whether to worship Brian’s dropped gourd or his lost sandal still cracks me up. This scene is prefaced by the sage musings of a street urchin foreshadowing the subtle confusion and misplacing of items that will accompany the end times.
Another worthwhile message for the children of academia is the members of the People’s Front of Judea, whose all-theory and no-action philosophy might cut a little close to home. The film closes with the condemned singing, “Always look on the bright side of life,” while suspended on crosses. I absolutely dare you to not hum it while you leave the theater. Go ahead, test me.
So what’s the message? Well, hopefully, you’ll have your own unique opinion on that one, but it’s worth considering that a film documenting the least productive period of Jesus’ life is rapidly eclipsing box office records. The final hours during which he was subjected to lamenting the shitty craftsmanship of inferior carpenters is more useful than the times when he snuggled lepers and stuff.
George Harrison makes a brief cameo in the film; he secured financing for “Life of Brian” when EMI cowardly pulled out. I can’t speak for the dead, but I’d bet he’d agree that kooks like the one that killed Lennon need to be disabused of the notion that worshiping someone – and perhaps fetishizing their death – is necessary to learn from them. As Brian most succinctly points out to his confused disciples, “You don’t have to follow anyone.”
A tiny gripe hardly worth mentioning: This is a re-master? I don’t know how hard it is to spiff up a film, but it couldn’t be more difficult than rubbing it with soap and pressing rewind. Perhaps they worried about people forgetting about the “Passion,” but in my mind, that’s negligible. Life in Oceana has gotten so busy that I can hardly remember last week, much less the month before the month before.
Yeah, I didn’t say much about the movie itself, but most of you have probably been exposed to Monty Python, and if you haven’t, then it isn’t going to be funny on paper. So, while it would contradict the spirit of the message to tell anyone they’re required to see this film, I can almost guarantee that it’ll send you into conniptions; a more positive opiate than laughter I have not found.