Monty Python Barry Took - Essay

Barry Took

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

As you would expect from the Python team [Monty Python's Life Of Brian is] as dangerous as a sweating stick of nitroglycerine in the hands of a man suffering from palsy….

You'll have to take my word that nowhere does the film denigrate Jesus nor, if my memory serves me, is He depicted or even mentioned….

True religion, being un-mockable, is not mocked, but bogus, catchpenny and lunatic fringe religion is, and who would have it otherwise? That said, I will be very surprised if every religious bigot in the world doesn't use Monty Python's Life Of Brian as an excuse for airing their neuroses. Not that the film is all that concerned with religion. Like the sets which are a marvellous mixture of ancient Tunisian and modern lathe and plaster, the story is an ingenious blend of the 2000-year-old and now. Not that there are any anachronisms—no jokes about "What's the time?" "X past IV"—but the past seen in terms of the present.

A puzzled and anxious proletariat, incompetent rulers, ineffective revolutionary committees, property developers, snobbism and bigotry, a mass of minorities jockeying for their own petty advantage. In short, civilisation as we know it today. The same chaos of irreconcilable views, wilful misunderstanding and downright stupidity we know all too well in 1978, there then, as it must have been (all right might have been) in AD minus 1.

All this and funny too. All in all a film to be cherished, the more so as the Monty Python team come together only rarely these days…. The delightful prospect of seeing them all together again is sharpened by the fact that they've also matured. Monty Python's Life Of Brian is a sharp, astringent reminder of what the talented sextet gave us on TV in the early Seventies, except that it's bigger and, I should guess, better.

Barry Took, "Python Preview," in Punch (© 1978 by Punch Publications Ltd.; all rights reserved; may not be reprinted without permission), Vol. 275, November 29, 1978, p. 970.