Friday, June 12, 2015

32: Life Of Brian

Watching it today I find it astonishing - utterly implausable, in fact - that people considered this film to be blasphemous. The few depictions of the life of Jesus in the film are both entirely in line with Biblical accounts and presented completely fairly. The humour then derives not from ridiculing Jesus, but from the possibilities (not entirely implausible!) of what happened at the fringes of those experiences: the wise men trying to find the new-born baby in the manger and coming to Brian's manger first by mistake, or those at the edge of the crowd at the sermon on the mount who were unable to clearly hear exactly what Jesus was saying ("did he say blessed are the cheese-makers?")

Of course the heart of the objection by the religious establishment of the early 1980s was that the film did, clearly, look to ridicule a type of religious fanaticism that is present in a lot of scenarios, whether first century Palestine or the UK of the late twentieth. The section where the crowd following Brian factionalises on whether his symbol is the sandal or the gourd, while totally missing the point that Brian had no interest in being any kind of leader, raises the point that it's crazy just to follow a fad without looking at the heart of what's going on. Which is again to me a strong argument the Python team were making, probably unconsciously on their part: look at what Jesus actually said and did. And if you do, will you find another Brian, or will you find that there was something else going on?

And so, once we get past all that, we can allow ourselves to relax, sit down and actually enjoy the movie, which contains some of the strongest set-pieces Python ever did - from "he's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy" through to "what have the Romans ever done for us", the Judean People's Front Crack Suicide Squad through to "I am Brian of Nazareth and so is my wife". And of course 'Always look on the bright side of life', which was an outside shot at the Top 40 music but didn't make it.

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