Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Monty Python - Alex Errey

Monty Python’s
“Almost the Truth: The lawyer’s cut”

"This is the documentary I always hoped that would be made - something so complete and so faithful to the truth that I don't need to watch it," Terry Jones

There are some things that Britain does better than anybody else. We are the best at queuing, if there isn’t a queue we make one. We also know how to make the perfect bacon sandwich. Best of all, we have the most diverse funny bone. Comedy was basically invented by us, long before American sitcoms were even thought of, we were filling our T.V screens with classics such as At last the 1948 show and children’s programme, Do not adjust your set. If we are to talk about such shows, we can’t miss out one of our greatest institutions, the pinnacle of British comedy, Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

The laugh a minute, world dominating comedy celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and to celebrate this unforgettable fact, the Pythons have come up with their last and most endearing project yet. Monty Python’s Almost the Truth: The lawyer’s cut is a six-part documentary of the Python Phenomenon detailing in 465 glorious minutes the truth behind it all. Each episode documents a different era in the Python world: 'The Not-So-Interesting Beginnings', 'The Much Funnier Second Episode', 'And Now, The Sordid Personal Bits', 'The Ultimate Holy Grail Episode', 'Lust For Glory!' and 'Finally! The Last Episode (Ever) (For Now...)'. They contain interviews with the five remaining Pythons and archive contributions from the late Graham Chapman. Celebrities also share their views on how Monty Python changed their lives.

I am very excited to see this amazing series which comes to DVD on 26th October 2009 but being such a big Python fan I had to find out more. What else would they be doing for this landmark age? After much research (done by a good friend of mine), I discovered that Vue cinemas would be showing a specially cut edition of the series, for one night only. I was able to get my hands on a very sought after ticket to see the show at Vue: Portsmouth.

Knowing that I would be watching a documentary, I found it difficult to work out how the Pythons could throw mountains of facts and some obvious fiction at the audience without it becoming tedious and repetitive. I didn’t have to wait long to find out, no previews, a welcomed bonus. Monty Python’s Almost the Truth: The lawyer’s cut was a 150 minute work of excellence, produced to a very high standard and in High definition. All members of the Python gang, including rarely seen Terry Gilliam and unofficial Pythoness, Carol Cleveland, told their side of the story, including exclusives about the real BBC and sketches that never made it. It’s a shame that a sketch by Eric Idle and Michael Palin didn’t make it only because the BBC censors claimed it contained references to menstrual fluid. The sketch was about a wine taster in France, he described the taste and what type the wine was. On asking the accompanying Frenchman “Yes?” the Frenchman replied “Non, it’s Oui Oui.” When they included a bottle of Rosé in the joke, well, you can work out the rest.

The interviews were very heavy going. After an hour of listening to just the Pythons talk, I was starting to get tired. Trying to keep your full attention on the screen was difficult. Also, a lot of the information present was already in the public knowledge, especially if you’re a hardcore fan of their work. I knew pretty well all the knowledge but it was nice to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. I was left wanting more information at certain points though. Yes, the show was about Monty Python but it would have been nice to see how they flowed into their solo projects. John Cleese for example, he was once married to Connie Booth and it would have been nice to know if she had anything to do with the Python projects. She did, of course, have a brief role in The Holy Grail. Is that all?

Between the Pythons talking about the past and celebrities telling us how Monty Python affected their lives, classic sketches were shown in what seemed to be High Definition. The Parrot sketch, Pepperpots & clips from their various film projects were present but none were shown in full. Most of the famous sketches, which people want to see on the big screen, weren’t even mentioned. I personally think this was what the Pythons were doing on purpose. We’ve seen all their work, we know what they do, and they rather we on how and why they did it. Sketches can get played too much, making them not so much classic, as crass. I think that a sing-a-long of The Lumberjack song wouldn’t have gone a miss though.

Overall, it was a masterpiece. I enjoyed learning more about the reasoning behind some of their work. It was also a very enlightening affair when it came to talking about the late, great Graham Chapman. Yes, I knew he was an alcoholic but I didn’t know that he was drinking more than four pints of Gin a day. It was nice to get a perspective from his partner on who he truly was. I now grasp the power struggle that Monty Python dealt with, who was Monty in the group? I am glad that they decided to end it this way, 40 years is along time to be in the spotlight even thought they weren’t Python for the most of it. All I can say is, this…is an ex parrot!

All hail the Monty Python’s Flying Circus!

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