Thursday, July 24, 2008

Olde Review: Monty Python and the Holy Grail

This was part of a series of reviews of the ASUW film series back in the '70's. Except for some punctuation, I haven't changed anything from the way it was presented, giving the kid I was back in the '70's a break. Any stray thoughts and updates I've included with the inevitable asterisked post-scripts.

"Monty Python and the Holy Grail"(Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, 1975) I also like "Monty Python." It is refreshing to turn on the tube and see total anarchy once in awhile. But, there is such a thing as good, disciplined cinema comedy, which places it above well-made home-movies like "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." I mean, these silly gits won't even take the credits seriously, fer chrissakes! It is not wihtout its gory charms (you have to admire people who come up with a blood-thirsty rabbit).

Maybe what I'm griping about is this: It is possible to have good screen comedy and a disciplined film at the same time. It's even possible to have it with anarchic comedy as in Howard Hawks' "Bringing Up Baby." And it is this discipline that is missing in "The New Comedy" as these films are billed*--they are funny, but they are not graceful. They are really quite slip-shod in the way they have been shot and edited.

Really, the only man who is continuing in the tradition of anarchic comedy and good film-making is, of all people, Mel Brooks, but only because he made two gems of recent comedy--"Young Frankenstein" and "Silent Movie." There is still hope for Woody Allen, if he returns to the style of 'Sleeper." There is no hope for Monty Python--they would have to change their comedy style--and it wouldn't really be worth it.

The moral to all this is: It may be funny as Hell, but that don't make it a good movie!

Broadcast on KCMU-FM November 4th and 5th, 1976

Poppycock! The style, or lack of it, in "Holy Grail," is part of the fun. At times epic, and at other times amateurish, it is the unexpected ways that Python (Monty) have of playing with the medium that makes up the charm (and a great deal of the comedy) of the film. Another look at the film (with the stick removed) shows it to be messing with the conventions of the fantasy film and of film in general (love the credits with the Norwegian translations) in fresh ways--and isn't that evidence of style? And while Terry Jones, who directed most of "Grail," has had a somewhat lackluster directing career, Terry Gilliam has had an amazingly rich (if problematic) directing career. Style? He has bags of it!

The writer of this review was hung up on "Filum" as "Aht" and more concerned with adhering to basic rules of "cinemah," rather than working with, without and outside of them to create spontaneous comedy. Sometimes, obeying the rules deprives one of opportunities to expand the discipline to achieve a richer art-form.

As for my better alternatives, the hope for Woody Allen that I spoke of was just around the corner with "Annie Hall," and after his successes, Mel Brooks made the most conventional and laziest of his comedies "The History of the World, Part 1" (after a less-than-inspired spoof of Hitchcock films, "High Anxiety.") The dedication he used to bring the look to the movies I mentioned, went away, and he decided that what he was doing was "good enough." It wasn't. On to Broadway...

*Lest we forget the program was "The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film," "Love and Death" and this one.

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