Sunday, 22 December 2013

L.J. SPENCE'S STARTING POINTS: MONTY PYTHON'S THE MEANING OF LIFE

L.J. SPENCE'S STARTING POINTS

13. MONTY PYTHON'S THE MEANING OF LIFE (1983, dir. Terry Jones)

22/12/2013


I will start by saying that this is, undisputedly, a very good film, but I do wonder why I say that.

Much like the NHS, the BBC and, perhaps, Wetherspoon's, Monty Python has become an indicator of national identity, a secular religion, and almost sacrilegious to criticise an ironic statement if you watch "Life of Brian" back again. "The Meaning of Life" is full of great sketches, like Mr. Creosote, "Find the Fish," and "Every Sperm is Sacred," and a special edition, 30th anniversary blu-ray set has been released to celebrate.

However, whenever the makers of the film are gathered, as is the case on an extra programme on the above disc, it is to talk about the faults of the film, what was left out, and what they could have made, had they done an extra rewrite. It is almost as if they are stuck with what we have subsequently loved.

I find myself beginning to agree with them. A group of sketches with the loose theme of the meaning of life would have worked better had they written about the same character throughout the film. The supporting feature, "The Crimson Personal Assurance," was something that became too big, too individual, and sticks out like a sore thumb when it is reprised later. They could have written, instead of about the meaning of life, a story of how the Python members were defending themselves in court that the film they were showing was not made as a tax dodge. They could have made more of the fish.

The problem is that, as creators, they will not see the film as we do, and can only see the errors that they will fix the next time - the upcoming shows at the O2 may not be that chance, but they say they are writing new sketches, so nothing can be ruled out. Those shows have only sold out because they have a devoted audience, ready to ignore what didn't work, and cherish that which did, and they will be there, mumbling the words of every sketch, committed to memory, under their breath, while it is performed in front of them...

Meanwhile, I will be at home, watching the blu-ray they will release of the show, using the best versions of all the sketches...

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