Hi there- it’s been a while.
I purposely let my blog take a back seat in the past few weeks. It was a sad decision as it meant I ended a year long streak of putting out weekly content, but I’m reevaluating the workload I put on myself in regards to fivethreeninety. I will be announcing in the new year my plans for my blog going forward, but until then let’s have a chill little catch up on my Sunday series ‘Films I Should Have Seen’.
Starting with filling in the gap for Sunday 10th November.
This week on films I should have seen I’m watching my first audience chosen film! I posted a poll on my Twitter and the results were pretty unanimous: so I watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail for the very first time.
The 1975 film is directed by Python legends Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, and is written by and starring Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle and Michael Palin, alongside Gilliam and Jones. It’s the exact same team behind the sketch show, so you can expect the same level of greatness here on the big screen.
The film follows King Arthur and his knights of the round table on their quest for the Holy Grail. Obviously, in typical Python style, it is all very, very silly.
Monty Python has a very particular brand of intellectual silliness. The film opens on a grassy hill, with the sound of a horse galloping towards us – only when the characters appear on screen, it’s revealed there’s no horse, just a man banging two empty coconut halves together. It’s a brilliant opening that immediately lets you know how seriously this film is going to take itself throughout.
Not one opportunity for comedy is missed: even the opening titles are a joke. Apparently there is on average, one joke every 10.5 seconds. And it really is endlessly quotable – in fact, there’s barely a line that goes by that isn’t quotable. There were many parts of the film I felt I had already seen I was already so familiar with the lines, or even the visuals.
What makes it so authentic is that it’s created and performed by the same people, so there’s not a single line is lost in translation. Palin has said that casting was largely determined mainly by who’d written what, which means everyone has a perfect understanding of the delivery needed, making the reactions from other cast members genuine. There’s many scenes where you can catch the cast corpsing.
Graham Chapman multi-roles the least, as he places principal character King Arthur; and Michael Palin plays the most characters at twelve. My favourite however probably has to be John Cleese, who really just is something special with his particular highlights being his roles as a French soldier and ‘Tim the Enchanter’. Obviously Eric Idle and everyone else are also great, but Cleese just gets me.
It’s a very simplistic story, broken up into a series of sketches that all link together with a really smooth flow. The cherry on the top is that the final big moment the entire film seems to have been building up to is abruptly cut off when a group of policeman storm the set and shut the film down. Pure genius. Python has never been anything but totally subversive of any exceptions, and in it’s first feature film it really brings it the next level by turning the usual way of film storytelling on it’s head.
It’s now somewhat of a legend that original the film was going to end with Arthur and the knights finding the Holy Grail at Harrods department store in London (which would have been beautiful), but this total, fourth wall breaking and inane stupidity of just cutting the entire story short is brilliant.
It was made on a measly budget of £200,000, which is basically unheard of. The low budget is a joke in itself: it was actually because of horses being too expensive that the coconut joke was born. This film is a true example of passion, and creative talent shining through production value and giving the entire film an even greater value. That’s why the world loves Python, and in more general terms that’s why I tend to love low budget, independent films so much. Because the people making them have such a drive to create it that they’ll do it regardless of financial means.
This is not a film to be analysed, except to note it’s ‘lightning in a bottle’ style comic genius. It’s easy to see why it’s beloved by the masses. I’m chuffed to have finally caught up on it.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is on Netflix.