Skip to main content

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #203: Life of Bryan

Many filmmakers have been bold enough to make controversial movies featuring characters from the Bible: Martin Scorsese, Mel Gibson, Darren Aronofsky, and Sir Ridley Scott. However only a select few have been ballsy enough to make a mockery about biblical concepts and that select few is of course Monty Python’s Flying Circus. But to be clear, the character in Life of Brian is not the Messiah: he’s a very naughty boy.

My dad is a big fan of British comedy so as he introduced my brother and I to the Mr. Bean, Black Adder, Fawlty Towers and of course the great works of Mrs. John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, and Terry Jones. Monty Python and the Holy Grail was the first of their films we saw, which showed me this British troupe of comedians is the funniest troupe of comedians in the world. I got the DVD of Life of Bryan a few Christmases ago, and although I did not think it was as funny as Holy Grail there were still plenty of laughs, not to mention a few poignant messages about religion. Monthy Python’s least funny movie is like a lesser Rolling Stones song: it is still definitely worth adding to your collection.

The Brian of the film is Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman) who has the misfortune of being born right next to where Jesus Christ is born, leading to a bit of confusion for the Three Wise Men. The confusion continues as Brian grows up in Judea running into oddball characters such as an ex-leper, different anti-Roman factions who cannot agree on a name, and rebel Judith (Sue Jones-Davies) whom he meets during Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount where the people in the back can’t hear anything.

Through a series of misunderstandings, everyone from the confused rebels to the Romans led by Pontius Pilate (Michael Palin) and Bickus Dickus (Chapman again) become convinced Brian is indeed the Messiah, despite the protests of his mother (Terry Jones) to the contrary. Brian does not want to be the Messiah either, but the Pythons suggest once a guy says something that sounds convincing enough people will follow his every words. This is indeed how cults are started. Anything unusual that happens around Brian is considered a miracle even though it is just a coincidence, and all Brian wants is to get in bed with Judith.

The movie works not just as a satire of Biblical epics, but also oddly enough as a satire of current upheavals in the Middle East. There are many anti-Roman factions in the city who spend a lot more time fighting each other than the Romans, and cannot decide whether they are the People’s Front of Judea or the Judean People’s Front. One of the groups decides to commit mass suicide as a political statement, which no matter how you frame it is a pretty ridiculous thing to do.

Between the religious and political allegories, Life of Brian was banned from theatres in certain countries decades after it was released. A strange decision for a comedy, but you know what they say: never talk in public about religion, politics, or sex. Life of Brian covers all three subjects, albeit with the Pythonesque sense of humour. This is a comedy people, lighten up.


Better yet, do what Eric Idle does during what is arguably the funniest crucifixion scene ever recorded and “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #85: Blue Velvet

Exactly how do you describe a David Lynch movie? He is one of the few directors whose style is so distinctive that his last name has become an adjective. According to Urban Dictionary, the definition of Lynchian is: “having the same balance between the macabre and the mundane found in the works of filmmaker David Lynch.” To see a prime example of that adjective film lovers need look no further than Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986), which does indeed begin in the mundane before slowly sinking in macabre violence.
My first introduction to the world of David Lynch was through his ground breaking, but unfortunately interrupted, early 1990s TV series Twin Peaks. This was one of the first television shows to grab viewers with a series-long mystery: who killed Laura Palmer? A mix of soap opera, police procedural, and the supernatural, it is a unique show that showed the darkness hidden in suburbia and remains influential to this day. Featuring Kyle MacLachlan as an FBI investigator with a love for …

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #90: When Harry Met Sally...

There is an age-old question regarding whether single men and women can be just friends. In real life the answer is obviously “yes,” but in movies and TV the answer always has to be that at some point two single characters will get attracted to each other and move beyond friendship. On TV I find this to be contrived and overused, but some movies can have a lot of fun with the concept, most notably Rob Reiner’s comedy classic When Harry Met Sally…(1989). It may not change your view on love and friendship, but it forever changed the meaning of the phrase “I’ll have what she’s having.”
On paper this film’s premise sounds like another rom-com, but seen by oneself during an evening of Netflix binging it does make you think about deep stuff like the long-term impact of your decisions on your life. A person you meet during a tense trip might turn up again sometime later down the road in the most unexpected ways. If there is one thing I believe in it is infinite possibilities, and Nora Ephron…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #83: Brazil

Dystopian movies from the 1980s are a funny thing since we now live in the future of those movies and if you look at the news for more than five minutes it will feel as though we are one bad day away from being into a dystopia. On the plus side, if it ends up looking like the dystopia portrayed in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) at least we will have lovely architecture to look at while the government is busy telling us how to think. This might not be a movie that will cheer you up, but the production design is amazing, the performances are great throughout, and you get to see Robert DeNiro play a maintenance man/freedom fighter.
I first saw Brazil as a Terry Gilliam double feature at the Universit√© de Sherbrooke’s movie club paired along with 12 Monkeys around ten years ago. Those two films are similar in that they both feature a rather dour future and, as with most Gilliam movies, incredibly intricate sets. However the dystopian future in Brazil is somewhat scarier than the disease-ra…