Monty Python’s Life of Brian – 40 Years On…

When it comes to splitting Monty Python fans, you have a couple of choices. On one hand you have people who deem The Holy Grail the best of the movies, the other Life Of Brian (And that odd one who prefers Meaning Of Life. Yes, I am talking to you.) Well, I am here to settle all of that. If you haven’t guess already by the title this, then I am saying that Life Of Brain is better. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love The Holy Grail. In fact, if I were to personally pick between the two, I’d pick Grail every time. It’s silliness, the music, the comedy; it’s the winner of my heart. But sitting down, and actually critically examining the two then Life of Brian is the champion.

Life of Brian tells the story of Brian, a normal citizen of Judea. But Brian has been plagued all his life. After all, being born in the same place and the same time as Jesus (the barn next door none the less,) it’s hard to not have people confusing you with the Son of God. However, after a series of unfortunate events, Brian is soon believed to be the Messiah and is followed around by a group of religious fanatics. Pestered by the Romans, hounded by the believers and pestered by his mother, poor Brian can’t get a break as his life leads him up to a dramatic finale.

As with every Monty Python film, television show, or stage show, the comedic timing and deliver are impeccable. Every scene is full of lashings of farce. From the rude Roman names to correcting Latin graffiti; there is a slice of humour everywhere Brian turns. There is no denying that the comedy troupe excel in comedic timing and their hilarious characters. Each of the Monty Python crew play multiple characters within the movie and play them convincingly well.

That’s great but we are used to this. After all, they play multiple characters in their television series and they do in Grail. What raises Brian above it all is the satire. Not actually a satire on the story of Jesus itself it is cleverly a stab at the worshippers. In one poignant scene, Brian tells the populous that they must all think for themselves and they eerily repeat what he says. It’s a poke at people who put too much faith into their beliefs that causes them to be narrow minded. In one instance, they kill a man for even angry denying Brian as the Messiah. It’s weirdly accurate and scarily real.

Controversially, they caused a hell storm. But that’s the brilliance of Brian. Instead of people appreciating the satire, people would instead angrily boycott the film believing it to be blasphemous against Jesus.

If you don’t believe the sheer anger of religious leaders, watch the debate Michael Palin and John Cleese with Malcolm Muggeridge and Meryvn Stockwood, The Bishop of Southwark on BBC show Friday Night Saturday Morning.  After the opposition missed the opening 15 minutes  where they showed the clear separation of Jesus and Brian, the two men soon delved into jibes and name calling. Watch whilst the two comedians who are being accused give a well thought out and researched points are subjected to schoolchild taunting. It’s fascinating to watch.

I digress; much like Jesus, Life of Brian’s message was taken and misinterpreted by the mass. But cleverly they used it to their advantage. In Sweden they advertised it as the film “so funny, Norway had it banned.” Life of Brian is so much more than the quotes you pass your fellow geek friends and fathers (me and my Dad try to slip one in at least once a day.) It is a clever and historical (See “What did the Romans ever do for us,” moment,) movie that gets legions of fans yearly.

And bloody hilarious.


Happy 40th Monty Python’s Life of Brian. 

Dragged Across Concrete – Review

by Tom Beasley 

The oeuvre of S. Craig Zahler is defined by a number of characteristics. His films are extremely violent, from the caved-in skulls of Brawl in Cell Block 99 to that one scene towards the end of Bone Tomahawk that immediately induced a thousand yard stare in everyone who saw it.

Crucially, though, Zahler’s movies also take their time. They deal in bloodshed, for sure, but they also deal in the calm before the storm.

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Dragged Across Concrete is no exception. At a bum-numbing 159 minutes, it’s a lengthy slog of a movie, and one that makes no apologies for that excess. It also makes no apologies for its politics or its casting. This is a film that positions the intensely problematic Mel Gibson and the gun-loving Republican Vince Vaughn as racist cops, who are suspended by Don Johnson’s police chief when video footage of them using excessive force on a Latino dealer hits the headlines. “Politics are everywhere,” says Johnson, adding that “the entertainment industry formerly known as the news needs villains”.

And it’s in dialogue of that stripe that Dragged Across Concrete emerges as Zahler’s most difficult work from an ideological perspective. The foregrounding of Gibson is a blatant act of trolling and Zahler’s dialogue juggles casual racism, jibes about how the line between men and women has now “blurred” and discussions about the threat of a young white woman being attacked by black men that are an unsettling reminder of the recent controversy around Liam Neeson. Apparently, in this world, throwing cups of soda around is an obvious precursor to rape. At times, the film is like sitting in a pub with Piers Morgan, Jeremy Clarkson and that Tory MP who keeps blocking up-skirting laws.

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Certainly, there’s no room in Concrete for women. Female characters do cross the orbit of the protagonists occasionally, but they’re either framed as cartoonishly emotional – one woman literally cannot bring herself to leave her newborn son to go to work – or bizarrely laissez-faire. Vaughn’s character’s girlfriend is black, but seems curiously unmoved by his suspension for a racially motivated misdemeanour. Black actor Tory Kittles is nominally the third lead, but the film’s lack of interest in him would be funny if it wasn’t so depressing.

Mel and Vince – it’s impossible to divorce these characters from the men behind them, despite the best efforts of Gibson’s 70s porn tache – respond to their suspension by staking out a drug dealer in the hope of liberating some cash from him. When it becomes clear that the dealer is actually embarking on a more deadly crime, the cops become heroes again, apparently, as they follow him around wondering when and whether to intervene. This is a film about masculinity and male duty that feels grounded in a time when men were men, and men were also racists.

The story inexorably winds towards a violent conclusion, in which bullets fly and arterial fluid leaks onto grubby asphalt. But it all feels weightless, even when a character is literally fiddling around inside another’s internal organs. Zahler has replaced the style and power of his previous work with a Trollface meme. He’s like a basement-dwelling Reddit user daring you to be ‘triggered’ by him, just waiting to share that ridiculous copypasta about “sexually identifying as an attack helicopter”.

Like so many purveyors of shock, Zahler has seemingly forgotten why he wanted to shock people in the first place.

 


Dragged Across Concrete is in 19th April 

LMB – Short Film

LMB is a short film that examines the impact of work stress and mental health. The story revolves around two people who die at the same time and in the same place – linked only by their workplace. Together, they have to figure out what led them there and why.

 

Two colleagues, Fiona and Phil, are at opposite ends of the ladder. Fiona is an ambitious and driven career PR agent who has used work to propel herself forward. Phil, however, is stuck in a rut as a HR manager, pushed to the dregs of the office and alone in his world.

Driven by stress in two very different ways, the pair tragically die at the same time and are pulled together by their one commonality – work. Together, they have to figure out the brand new landscape around them as well as the person they’d become.

Working with Lambeth & Southwark Mind, LMB looks to tackle mental health in the work place as well as how we can aid those suffering.

Based on a select scene study and developed through the teams personal experiences, LMB takes a fantastical setting and uses it to help our characters build courage, self-esteem, and confidence. The short film will intimately explore how two people can spiral out of control in very different ways.


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