LIFE OF BRIAN
(director: Terry Jones; screenwriters: Terry Jones/Graham Chapman/Michael Palin/John Cleese/Eric Idle/Terry Gilliam; cinematographer: Peter Biziou; editor: Julian Doyle; music: Geoffrey Burgon; cast: Terry Jones (Mandy Cohen/Simon), Graham Chapman (Brian/First Wise Man/Biggus Dickus), Michael Palin (Francis/Pontius Pilate/Ben/Ex-Leper/Second Wise Man/Mr. Big Nose/Nisus Wettus/Boring Prophet), John Cleese (Reg/Third Wise Man/Stoning Official/Centurion), Eric Idle (Stan/Harry the Haggler/Mr. Cheeky/Jailer and his assistant/Mr. Frisbee Illrd), Terry Gilliam (Jailer/Blood and Thunder prophet), Kenneth Colley (Jesus), Carol Cleveland (Mrs. Gregory), Sue Jones-Davies (Judith),Neil Innes (A Weedy Samaritan), Spike Milligan (Spike), George Harrison (Mr. Papadopolous), Charles McKeown (Blind Man/False Prophet); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: R; producer: John Goldstone; The Criterion Collection; 1979)
“It’s a Mel Brooks kind of Jewish joke film made by gentiles.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Silly, provocative and irreverent spoof on uptight religious attitudes by those with closed minds and those in the crowd who want to believe that they can be saved by God’s miracles even if there’s no evidence of that. Daring enough (though hardly vulgarian enough!) for the farce to be condemned by the uptight Catholic groups as “blasphemy, groups in the Bible Belt as “a disgraceful assault,” and by the Rabbinical Alliance of America for being “foul and disgusting.” Thereby insulting the three major organized religions in America and Great Britain. It’s a Mel Brooks kind of Jewish joke film made by gentiles. Many critics consider it the gold standard of the Monty Python series. Director Terry Jones (“Erik the Viking”/”The Wind in the Willows”/”Monty Python and the Holy Grail”)keeps it hopping along at a rapid pace as a one-joke satire on organized religion and, either its idea or Hollywood’s, of the crucifixion and of life in Jerusalem A.D. 33.
The Three Wise Men go to the wrong manger and Brian of Nazareth becomes the mistaken reluctant Christ. As an adult Brian attends Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, the unruly audience can’t quite hear the talk because of the noise and mistakenly thinks Christ says “Blessed are the cheesemakers.” Later a mob follows Brian Cohen around, mistakenly thinking he’s the Messiah. Brian’s despicable shrewish mom shouts at the mob: “He’s not the Messiah! He’s a very naughty boy.”
After Brian joins an anti-Roman political organization and paints the palace wall with anti-Roman graffiti it leads toa series of coincidences and mistaken notions, as the film reaches its climax with the crucifixion of Brian as the reluctant Messiah. During the crucifixion Eric Idle sings the cheery tune “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” while Brian sings in the chorus with the other victims nailed to the cross.
The Pythons play many parts and all take part in writing the screenplay. It was shot in Tunis.
REVIEWED ON 10/13/2010 GRADE: B