The Life of Brian

(Dir. Terry Jones 1979)

The Python team succeeds in doing something which very few people can do. What's more, it makes it look easy. One moment they are making a very clever joke, which takes a lot of understanding, which makes many references to culture and history, and which makes a very good point, and the next joke in the script is "Shut up, Big Nose!" All the way through, this pattern is repeated, and all the way through, both kinds of joke are very funny.

The pace never lets up, and it moves from one excellent sequence to another, each one advancing the plot (with the probable exception of the bit with the space ship). Along the way, one sees several classic moments which have since been much copied. Where were they first? In this film. "What have the Romans ever given us?", "Splitter!", "Alms for an ex-leper!" - if you don't see this film, then you will be missing out on some important popular culture.

The cast is excellent, and each of the Python team plays several roles, sometimes even having to do reaction shots to shots of themselves playing other parts. This sort of ensemble casting is sadly rare in films, being a sort of theatrical ploy, and yet in this film it feels entirely natural.

The film looks very good. In fact, it is probably the most visually convincing depiction of life in a biblical city I have seen. The Python team is made up of educated men, and these went to some effort to see that the costumes and sets, and atmosphere were up to scratch. This re-enforces the comedy, and greatly re-enforces the profound elements of the film.

There is a central message to this film, summed up in Brian's hilarious and desperate speech to the multitude which has gathered ("'Popped by'? Swarmed by, more like!") outside his window. It is that people should not follow religions like blind sheep, but should think for themselves. Few more worthwhile and sound messages could be preached by anyone. Don't take my word for it, though, decide for yourself.

Along the way, many other points are made, each highlighting the petty-mindedness of humans. This film comes highly recommended for viewing by the young. It could be a good influence on them, I hope, and can make them only more reasonable and tolerant adults, assuming that they don't die young of an excess of laughing.

There are only two films which always leave me wanting to see them again immediately: Gregory's Girl, and Life of Brian. As soon as the end credits roll, I have the strong urge to rewind the tape and see it all again.

"And there shall be a Man... and he shall lose his hammer, and think that's very odd, because he could remember exactly where he put it only the night before... about eight o'clock." That's the sort of prophet I like.

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