Happy 47th Anniversary Monty Python’s Flying Circus (October 5th 2016). This link will take you to more posts that celebrate their whacky; but, superd work:
My blog site, Life’s Daily Lessons, searches for the meaning of life by examining everyday experiences through the Arts. The Arts provide a key to discover common bonds that help us make connections to others. In other words,through the Arts, we learn about ourselves and what we have in common, as the human race.
Monty’s Python’s The Meaning of Life is a surreal, absurd and definitely hilarious reflection of this connection. The following quote by Python member, John Cleese describes it this way:
Laughter connects you with people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you’re just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for Democracy.
So, I would like to thank Steve of Movie, Movie, Blog, Blog for hosting this blogathon in celebration of Python’s 47th anniversary; and, for giving me an opportunity to explore their satirical, funny World.
I was first introduced to Python’s unique comedy style through vinyl records during the late 60s. Some of my fondest memories was listening to their hilariously recorded sketches. My personal favorite was the dead Parrot being bought back to the pet shop for a refund and the Lumberjack Song... Monty Python was like nothing I ever heard before. They were so irrelevant and so irresistible. Their comedy had no restrictions. Anything or any person was a potential target for their brand of lampooning. It was unique, current, and smartly written and delivered. It was perfect for a rebellious generation. Some critics have even compared their comedic arrival to the United States to that of the musical arrival of the Beatles in the 60s: An Artistic Revolution.
The troupe started with 6 young men. Three of them, John Cleese, Graham Chaplin, and Eric Idle (a year behind the other two), met at Cambridge University. Cleese met the only American born member in the group in New York City : Terry Gilliam. Gilliam worked as an animator for a comedy show that influenced them in their own brand of comedy: Do not Adjust Your Set. The other two members of the Python group is Michael Palin and Terry Jones who were writing partners at Oxford University. Cleese wanted to work with Palin and the rest is Monty Python history.
The Movie, The Meaning of Life, was the 5th and final movie made with all six members of the troupe in 1983. Graham Chaplin passed away in 1989 from cancer. This movie is filmed in a series of sketches connected by seven titles. There are seven Parts with 3 separate film markers. The plot illustrates the meaning of life according to the bizarre, disturbing, dark humor, and at times spectacular violent comedy of Monty Python. In addition, to these elements of the movie, there is the Terry Gilliam’s cut-out animations and Eric Idle’s delightful, musical numbers.
This movie was directed by the other Terry in the Python group. Terry Jones is referred to by the other members of the group as the heart of the team. He sounds like the heart of the group when he claims that he and “Mike [Palin] just want to be loved.” Jones directed three of their five movies: Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Life of Brian, and The Meaning of Life. These three films are still banned in Ireland. Like all Pythons, Jones is frequently dressed as a woman in their sketches. He is the one with the heavy brows. In Life of Brian, he played Brian’s mum. His line He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy! was voted the funniest in film history on two occasions. Even though he was extremely funny on-screen, he preferred to work behind the scenes with writing and directing.
The movie opens with a short Feature presentation directed by Gilliam: The Crimson Permanent Assurance. It shows elderly office workers who are working for an uncaring corporation. They started their jobs with a family owned company. But now the evil corporation is driving them like slaves on an ancient Roman ship, whips and all. When they sack one of the office workers, the proletariat of Marx’s revolution revolt and violently take over. The office turns into a pirate movie. The buliding transforms into a pirate ship named The Crimson Permanent Assurance. It sails away to attack other buildings in the London district. Once the London district is destroyed, they sail off to meet two other myths: One is a happy ending which proves false and the another which turns out to be true. Once you reach the edge of the earth, you fall off…this is true. So, they fall off the edge of the earth with no happy ending.
Next we see each of the six with their faces on aquarium fish in a restaurant. They swim back and forth saying, Good Morning to each other. I am not sure what the point is other than to say this is life as we know it…routine. Until, they see a fellow fish, Howard, who is about to be eaten. Then, they become philosophical: It makes you think. Like what is it all about? Now, we have our first musical number illustrated by Gilliam.
Part I: The Miracle of Birth
There are three segments in Part I: a women gives birth in a hospital surrounded by expensive machines that go bing; Part II The Third World is located in Yorkshire, England. Here we find a poor Catholic family where a baby falls straight out the mother’s womb onto the floor as she does dishes. She asks one of her fifty children to pick the babe up for her. The father has lost his job in the mines and must sell his children for scientific experiments to pay the bills. He explains to his children that they are poor because God keeps Blessing them with more children. Now, the second musical number: Every Sperm is Scared.
The last segment shows the Protestant husband and wife saying they take precautions by wearing a rubber shield on their John Henry. It is obvious they do not have sex very often because he had to explain it all to his wife.The wife gets all worked up just listening to her husband’s description of an array of condoms.
Part II: Growing and Learning
The segment begins with boys in public school where sex education is taught, literally. Sex is demonstrated by school master (Cleese) and his wife to the very bored and uninterested class of young students. As punishment for disruptive behavior, the boys must play against the Masters in a game of rugby where teachers cheer on the sidelines, for the defeat of the student team.
Part III: Fighting Each Other
This segment finds us in World War I during combat. Soldiers are presenting their commanding officer with surprise goodbye presents and cake. They each have their feelings hurt because the Officer is uncomfortable in the face of fire and not taking cover. The men are shot one by one without a clue to take cover.
Then another segment moves to a modern Army where the drill Sargent is yelling orders to March in the square. He gets in each soldier’s face and asked, would you rather do something else than march in the Square? Each soldier answers honestly and the Sargent releases them. He ends up marching in the Square alone. The next segment puts the audience in the middle of a Zulu uprising. It is subtitled: First Zulu War 1879, Glasgow
Now, I don’t want to tell you the whole movie. I will stop writing of further too many more details at this point. We are now at a point in the movie titled The Middle of the Movie. In my humble opinion, the funnest Parts and segments are from The Middle to The End on the movie.
Part IV: Middle Age: It begins with an middle age couple (Palin and Idle) having an evening out by dining in an expensive restaurant. They are given a menu of conversational topics to discuss while they wait for their dinner.
Part V: Live Organ Transplant. This is pretty graphically sick; but, so over the top it is very funny. It also has my favorite song in the movie: The Galaxy Song.
Part VI: Autumn Years. This segment starts with the Penis Song. Eric Idle is the piano player in a French restaurant singing every name of a penis ever mentioned by man. Really! It is a song dedicated to the various names of the Willy. I mean, what do you expect from a comedy troupe calling themselves, Monty Python?
Then, the fish in the aquarium announce the entrance of a feared patron, with, “Oh, Shit! It’s Mr ….” Then they scatter and hide. At this point we see the entrance of a morbidly obese, aggrogant man. He later proceeds to throw up every where and eventually explodes in this expensive French restaurant.
Part VII: Death This segment begins with a fantasy death of most men: Thirty beautiful naked women clad only in G-Strings running a man to a cliff where he falls off. He lands into a casket on the beach during his funeral progression.
I really love the Grim Reaper segment that follows this. No spoils here; but, it does remind me of a Bergman flick. This segment ends with a musical number in heaven.
The last title marker reads: The End. Terry Jones, dressed as lady, briefly tells the audience what their meaning of life is. I have inserted it here.
Besides this bit of advice, there are two more to note that can be found in Part V during a business meeting. They are discussing two major points:
Number 1: People are not wearing enough hats
Number 2: Souls don’t develop if they are distracted
Terry Jones, the director of The Meaning of Life, received a special award from BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) on October 2, 2016. Jones received an award for Outstanding Contribution to Film and Television. I am so excited for him to be recognized for all his artistic film contributions. Unfortunately BAFTA also released a statement that Jones has been diagnosed with a rare form dementia: Primary Progressive Aphasia. Since, this affects his ability to communicate, there would not be any interviews after the ceremony. A courageous Jones accepted his award with his son next to his side. Tragically, in time, this disease will cause him to lose his ability to understand written or spoken language. This seems unusually cruel fate for such a gifted comedian, writer and film maker.
Below is a link of Jones accepting his award with his son by his side.
As an added tribute to the Monty Python group, here is Monty Python fan Stephen Hawking singing the Galaxy Song from the movie. As he sings, we get a peek of the group in more recent moments. They use this video for their stage show when touring the country. I am not positive Hawking actually sang it; but, he did give permission and enjoyed listening to it as I feel most of you will enjoy watching it.