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Monty Python and the Holy Grail


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I have a feeling this has been discussed. I can't see how it couldn't have. So if someone could "ahem" me (preferably with a link) I'd be much obliged.

That much said ...

I saw this (again) about a week ago, and was struck by (get ready) the spiritual significance of it. I know, it's outrageously silly. But think about the theology it "deals with", particularily the "God" sequence (which many will view as irreverent); there's a metaphor right there.

Also, has anyone tried contrasting Holy Grail with The Da Vinci Code? That would be interesting.

Once again, if this is going on somewhere else, just re-direct me. I couldn't find one (though maybe I wasn't using the search engine right ...)

My name is Darth Vader. I come from the planet Vulcan.

- Back to the Future

To me, truth is not some vague, foggy notion. Truth is real. And at the same time, unreal. Fiction and fact and everything in between, plus some other things I can't remember; all rolled into one big "thing." This is truth, to me.

- Jack Handey

The Moviegeist

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I have said this many times over the years, but I cannot recall if I have ever said it here ... so now that there is an appropriate thread, I shall say it for the record: Monty Python and the Holy Grail is one of those films that I have a LOT more fun recalling and reciting with my friends than I do actually watching. And given that I agree with John Cleese that Life of Brian is the Python group's "masterpiece", I am intrigued by how better-known Holy Grail seems to be.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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And given that I agree with John Cleese that Life of Brian is the Python group's "masterpiece", I am intrigued by how better-known Holy Grail seems to be.

I wonder if this isn't because HG is "just for fun," a lot less pointed than Brian or Meaning of Life. I'd like to see Plankton unpack his theory about the spiritual significance of HG, because so far I don't agree with him. Don't think there's much spiritual significance there.

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

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I'd like to see Plankton unpack his theory about the spiritual significance of HG, because so far I don't agree with him. Don't think there's much spiritual significance there.

Maybe I'm just being stupid, trying to find merit where there is none. But I remember reading on the Life of Brian thread that someone said Brian actually had a point, whereas Holy Grail didn't. This kinda ticked me off, because really, ALL films have a point, whether it's self-expression or just a blatant money-grab. And I don't think Holy Grail is just a money-grab. Having not seen Life of Brian or Meaning of Life (I plan to soon, however), I can't compare Holy Grail with them. But I think it's unfair to disqualify Holy Grail simply because it's less spiritually significant.

Anyway, about the spirituality:

GOD: Oh, don't grovel ... do get up! If there's one thing I can't stand it's people grovelling.

ARTHUR: Sorry ...

GOD: And don't apologise. Every time I try to talk to someone it's sorry this and forgive me that and I'm not worthy and ... just stand there.

Practically, this isn't a far cry off from God as recorded in the Bible. He tries to talk to someone, and all they do is make it harder for Him to talk to them (leading often to a fair bit more than just His annoyance; see his talks with Moses and Job, and heck, a bunch of the prophets).

The other side is more metaphorical, and it's the fact that we're often, when we pray to God, so concerned with ourselves that God can't really talk to us. We're so busy saying "Sorry for this and forgive me that and I'm not worthy ..." that we leave no room for God to speak to US. I'm not implying that He speaks to us directly, but you probably know what I mean. Another aspect is the whole "You people honour me with your lisps but your hearts are far from me," thing. Arthur and the knights have got the grovelling and eye-averting down flat, but that's obviously where their religious conviction ends. God doesn't want them to grovel or such, he wants their (and our) hearts.

Of course, the Pythons were almost definitely not thinking of all this when they wrote the scene. And I'm probably making way too big a deal out of the "spirituality". It just really gets my dander up when someone dismisses a film as "doesn't have a point" (excuse the grammar).

I'll write the comparison of Holy Grail with The Da Vinci Code myself someday (maybe when I actually get my own site made).

I have a feeling this is gonna be a short thread, but at least now you know where I'm coming from. Holy Grail's one of my favourite films, and I want to make sure it gets the respect it deserves.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail is one of those films that I have a LOT more fun recalling and reciting with my friends than I do actually watching.

I bought the screenplay just so I could memorize the stupid thing. And now I can chant the monk chant (in Latin!).

But I still love watching it. There are some aspects that are unquotable, like Launcelot running up to King Brian's (interestingly named) castle (an obvious spoof on Omar Sharif's entrance in Lawrence of Arabia), or his killing spree inside the said castle, or the terrifically phony duel between the Green Knight and the Black Knight.

Plus, I really get a kick out of John Cleese.

(end of lecture)

My name is Darth Vader. I come from the planet Vulcan.

- Back to the Future

To me, truth is not some vague, foggy notion. Truth is real. And at the same time, unreal. Fiction and fact and everything in between, plus some other things I can't remember; all rolled into one big "thing." This is truth, to me.

- Jack Handey

The Moviegeist

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In college I had a medieval lit prof who was just in love with Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He pointed out all sorts of allusions within that film, though I can't remember them very well right now. He also referenced a scholarly article that one of the Pythons wrote about the "Knights Tale" in Chaucer's Canturbury Tales. I wish I remembered more of what he said about it though.

Scott -- 2nd Story -- Twitter

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In college I had a medieval lit prof who was just in love with Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He pointed out all sorts of allusions within that film, though I can't remember them very well right now. He also referenced a scholarly article that one of the Pythons wrote about the "Knights Tale" in Chaucer's Canturbury Tales. I wish I remembered more of what he said about it though.

It's Terry Jones. He wrote a book basically arguing (for reasons too numerous to go into here) that Chaucer's Knight was probably a mercenary, and recently published additional manuscript evidence that the Knight could be modeled on a famous 14th c. mercenary, Sir John Hawkwood--apparently being a mercenary wasn't necessarily a bad thing. PM me if you want more specific references.

You can read a bit about that, and about his other ideas about medieval times in this 2004 IGNfilmforce interview.

There is this difference between the growth of some human beings and that of others: in the one case it is a continuous dying, in the other a continuous resurrection. (George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie)

Isn't narrative structure enough of an ideology for art? (Greg Wright)

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But I think it's unfair to disqualify Holy Grail simply because it's less spiritually significant.

"Disqualify" it from what? I'll never vote it into the A&F Top 100, if that's what you mean. Can't say HG is entirely lacking in spiritual significance, but too many other films have much more of it.

Of course, the Pythons were almost definitely not thinking of all this when they wrote the scene. And I'm probably making way too big a deal out of the "spirituality".

Thou sayest.

You make a good point: our misguided notions of how to approach God sometimes get in the way of communicating with him. But as you say, although this idea is in the film, it isn't developed in any meaningful way. God in the film is not interested in Arthur's 'heart'; he just wants Arthur to find the Grail. And I doubt God would really say, "Those miserable Psalms--they're so depressing." Even though some of them are.

Oh, and I love the film, even though as Peter says, it may be more fun to quote than to watch. "Bring out Your Dead" is perhaps the most misquoted sequence in the Python oeuvre. Lots of people think they know it, but I have yet to meet anyone who can get the lines right.

Edited by mrmando

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

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Plankton wrote:

: Practically, this isn't a far cry off from God as recorded in the Bible. He tries to talk to someone,

: and all they do is make it harder for Him to talk to them (leading often to a fair bit more than

: just His annoyance; see his talks with Moses and Job, and heck, a bunch of the prophets).

I dunno; don't God and/or his angels actually tell people to remove their shoes because they are standing on holy ground, etc.? Those who instinctually do that sort of thing before God tells them to might be "grovelling", by this film's definition, but I can't say it's necessarily a bad thing. Y'know, God did not tell Isaiah to stop annoying him with his confession of sinfulness; instead, he sent an angel to purify him.

Do we necessarily believe that God thinks "those miserable Psalms" are "always so depressing", too?

: "You people honour me with your lisps . . .

Heh heh.

: But I still love watching it. There are some aspects that are unquotable, like Launcelot running up

: to King Brian's (interestingly named) castle (an obvious spoof on Omar Sharif's entrance in

: Lawrence of Arabia) . . .

Wow, I am a huge Lawrence of Arabia fan, and I had never made that connection before.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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You make a good point: our misguided notions of how to approach God sometimes get in the way of communicating with him. But as you say, although this idea is in the film, it isn't developed in any meaningful way. God in the film is not interested in Arthur's 'heart'; he just wants Arthur to find the Grail. And I doubt God would really say, "Those miserable Psalms--they're so depressing." Even though some of them are.

OK, I probably am taking the movie way to seriously, and trying to find spiritual significance where this isn't much. However, I'd once again like to make the point that ALL films have SOMETHING to say (whatever it may be). I don't believe there's such thing as a "solely entertainment" film (or, if there is, it isn't worth watching), and it bugs me when people dismiss a given film as one.

"You people honour me with your lisps

Whoops. ::blush:: That's funny, though. Gotta remember.

Do we necessarily believe that God thinks "those miserable Psalms" are "always so depressing", too?

This may not be a reference to the Biblical psalms. There were some "psalms" written during the Middle Ages, I believe. However, point taken. I shouldn't take the "God scene" seriously.

Wow, I am a huge Lawrence of Arabia fan, and I had never made that connection before.

I'm pretty sure that's what they were trying to do. The sequence is famous (the one in LoA). Note that every time it shows Launcelot running, it's the same shot. Ha ha.

Once again, it's interesting to compare the film to other "serious" pieces of art. I read T.H. White's The Once and Future King after I saw Holy Grail, and I noted the similarities.

Edited by Plankton

My name is Darth Vader. I come from the planet Vulcan.

- Back to the Future

To me, truth is not some vague, foggy notion. Truth is real. And at the same time, unreal. Fiction and fact and everything in between, plus some other things I can't remember; all rolled into one big "thing." This is truth, to me.

- Jack Handey

The Moviegeist

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One more thing (for now, anyway):

"Disqualify" it from what? I'll never vote it into the A&F Top 100, if that's what you mean. Can't say HG is entirely lacking in spiritual significance, but too many other films have much more of it.

I was definitely NOT insinuating that you all vote for it in the A&F Top 100. Heck, I wouldn't. I was simply saying that we shouldn't dismiss it as nothing more than "entertainment" because Life of Brian and Meaning of Life have more to say.

END OF RANT RELATED TO HOLY GRAIL BEING DISMISSED AS "ENTERTAINMENT"

Now ...

"Let's not bicker and argue over who killed who ..."

*stifled laugh*

I noticed recurring themes. One is mistaken gender:

ARTHUR: Old woman!

DENNIS: Man.

And again ...

HERBERT: But Mother ...

KING BRIAN: Father, lad.

The other is Arthur saying "five" when he should say "three".

After the encounter with "The Beast":

ARTHUR: Who did we lose?

LAUNCELOT: Sir Gawain.

GALAHAD: Ector.

ARTHUR: And Bors. Five.

GALAHAD: Three, sir.

About to throw the Holy Hand Grenade:

ARTHUR: All right, one, two, five.

GALAHAD: Three!

Approaching the Bridge of Death:

ARTHUR: He asks each traveller five questions ...

GALAHAD: Three questions.

Of course, I'm probably not the first to notice this. And has anyone else heard what the "critics" had to say about the film?

"I laughed until I stopped." Raoulf K. Denktash

"Made me want to eat my own vomit." Guy the Gorilla

"Mark my words, this will be the biggest hit of '75." Rent a Review Ltd.

My name is Darth Vader. I come from the planet Vulcan.

- Back to the Future

To me, truth is not some vague, foggy notion. Truth is real. And at the same time, unreal. Fiction and fact and everything in between, plus some other things I can't remember; all rolled into one big "thing." This is truth, to me.

- Jack Handey

The Moviegeist

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Extraordinarily Deluxe Edition" coming to DVD in October.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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"Extraordinarily Deluxe Edition" coming to DVD in October.

Aww. I'll probably stick with the one I've got. It's a little short on extra features, but it is fun to watch the French Taunter with French subtitles.

END OF RANT RELATED TO HOLY GRAIL BEING DISMISSED AS "ENTERTAINMENT"

Since when is "entertainment" a dismissive term?

Edited by mrmando

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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I have said this many times over the years, but I cannot recall if I have ever said it here ... so now that there is an appropriate thread, I shall say it for the record: Monty Python and the Holy Grail is one of those films that I have a LOT more fun recalling and reciting with my friends than I do actually watching. And given that I agree with John Cleese that Life of Brian is the Python group's "masterpiece", I am intrigued by how better-known Holy Grail seems to be.

FWIW I agree both in terms of the fun of reciting it and that LoB is the better film. I think the reason for this is that LoB is more of a film with more of a narrative arc. Meaning of Life is simply just a series of sketches. Holy Grail falls somewhere in between in my book. There is sort of a narrative, but it lacks beginning and end, and each episode in that narrative feels like a sketch. The film to me, feels like a bunch of sketches on King Arthur combbled together, whereas LoB actually gets somewhere.

Matt

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Since when is "entertainment" a dismissive term?

I suppose in the strictest sense it isn't, but I find that many critics categorize films as either "art" or "entertainment". That really ticks me off. "Art" must have some element of "entertainment", or else the audience will get bored. And "entertainment" must have some element of "art" or else, really, it's not film. Film is "art", that is, creative self-expression. Some films are more enjoyable to watch than others. But that doesn't mean entertainment is their sole purpose. The filmmaker may have made the film for that purpose, but whether he succeeds or not, the film is still art. ALL film is art; it's pretty much impossible for it not to be.

Er, you all probably knew that already, of course. What I was TRYING to say there is that labeling a film as SOLELY entertainment is dismissive, not that saying a film is ENTERTAINING is dismissive. Holy Grail is very entertaining (to me, at least), and the main reason I watch it is to be entertained, or to observe the filmmaking methods used (I'm an amateur writer/director, so I need all the help I can get). But that doesn't mean there's nothing to learn from it.

Holy Grail falls somewhere in between in my book. There is sort of a narrative, but it lacks beginning and end, and each episode in that narrative feels like a sketch. The film to me, feels like a bunch of sketches on King Arthur combbled together, whereas LoB actually gets somewhere.

True. But, blast it all, it's still funny. :) Whoa, that's a bit of irony for ya.

My name is Darth Vader. I come from the planet Vulcan.

- Back to the Future

To me, truth is not some vague, foggy notion. Truth is real. And at the same time, unreal. Fiction and fact and everything in between, plus some other things I can't remember; all rolled into one big "thing." This is truth, to me.

- Jack Handey

The Moviegeist

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Plays tonight through next Thursday at The Nuart Theatre on Santa Monica Blvd. Brand new 35mm print.

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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I plan to see LoB as soon as I can. Just in time for me to NOT vote for it in A&F Top 100. Grr.

One other them in Holy Grail I just remembered is cats being mistreated. The knights step/kick one off the table when they're singing. We see an old woman banging one against a wall later on. And the line for the woman who says, "There's some lovely filth down here," was originally going to be "Have you seen the cat's front legs?"

Ha ha. Torturing animals. Funny. :D

My name is Darth Vader. I come from the planet Vulcan.

- Back to the Future

To me, truth is not some vague, foggy notion. Truth is real. And at the same time, unreal. Fiction and fact and everything in between, plus some other things I can't remember; all rolled into one big "thing." This is truth, to me.

- Jack Handey

The Moviegeist

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Reminds me of a comment Robin Williams used to make in his stand-up routine, about swearing off booze and going to parties and telling people, "No, that's all right, you go have that double vodka martini, I'll be in the corner kicking the cat."

Yeah, torturing animals is funny. Except when it isn't, of course. :)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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... cats being mistreated.... We see an old woman banging one against a wall later on...

I'll have to watch this scene again, but if remember correctly, I think the old woman is actually beating a rug with the cat. Which, for me, makes the scene even funnier. I mean, c'mon, what's the use of beating a rug in the middle of all that filth and muck, with or without a cat. And really, who in that squalid neighborhood could afford the luxury of a rug... or a cat, for that matter? And what of the fact that this old woman cares enough to clean her rug in the midst of the plague? This is all funny in and of itself, when you put it into perspective (assuming you have the time to contemplate this brief moment in film for several days - but I digress), but it's the cat that sends it over the top, creating instant hilarity (as opposed to the "contemplating for several days" hilarity the scene would require had there been no cat). Hat's off to the Python troupe for including the cat!

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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Yet ANOTHER theme I now remember is people being mistaken for dead when they aren't. Obviously, there's the "dead" scene, and then when Concorde is shot with the arrow, and when Prince Herbert falls out the window, and when Princess Lucky's father is "killed", and of course all the wedding people that Launcelot killed get up to sing with Herbert.

Any other hilarious themes I've missed? Or instances with cats being tortured?

My name is Darth Vader. I come from the planet Vulcan.

- Back to the Future

To me, truth is not some vague, foggy notion. Truth is real. And at the same time, unreal. Fiction and fact and everything in between, plus some other things I can't remember; all rolled into one big "thing." This is truth, to me.

- Jack Handey

The Moviegeist

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Ha ha, yeah, that counts.

My name is Darth Vader. I come from the planet Vulcan.

- Back to the Future

To me, truth is not some vague, foggy notion. Truth is real. And at the same time, unreal. Fiction and fact and everything in between, plus some other things I can't remember; all rolled into one big "thing." This is truth, to me.

- Jack Handey

The Moviegeist

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  • 2 months later...

Extracts from Michael Palin's diaries published in The Daily Telegraph:

I have kept a diary, more or less continuously, since April 1969. I was 25 years old then, married for three years and with a six-month-old son. I had been writing comedy with Terry Jones since leaving university in 1965 and, in addition to contributing material to The Frost Report, Marty Feldman, The Two Ronnies and anyone else who’d take us, we had written and performed two series of Do Not Adjust Your Set and six episodes of The Complete and Utter History of Britain.

After the last one went out in early 1969, John Cleese rang me. 'Well, you won’t be doing any more of those,' he predicted, accurately as it turned out, 'so why don’t we think of something new.'

So it was, that, quite coincidentally, Monty Python came into my life, only a month or so after the diary. The perfect, well-crafted, impeccably balanced entry persistently eludes me. Prejudices bob to the surface, anger crackles, judgements fall over each other, huffing and puffing. Opinions and interpretations are impulsive, inconsistent and frequently contradictory.

But I’m not sure if that matters. After all that’s where a daily diary differs from autobiography or memoir. It is an antidote to hindsight. It seals the present moment and preserves it from perspective. . .

Focus: The Art and Soul of Cinema now published - www.damaris.org/focus

Damaris: www.damaris.org CultureWatch: www.culturewatch.org Personal site: www.tonywatkins.co.uk

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  • 5 years later...

Plankton wrote:

: But I still love watching it. There are some aspects that are unquotable, like Launcelot running up

: to King Brian's (interestingly named) castle (an obvious spoof on Omar Sharif's entrance in

: <i>Lawrence of Arabia</i>) . . .

Wow, I am a huge <i>Lawrence of Arabia</i> fan, and I had never made that connection before.

I too am a huge fan of Lawrence of Arabia, but hadn't seen that connection until now. I always thought Lancelot's run up to the castle might have been inspired by the opening of this scene from Jesus Christ Superstar, which uses the same shot over and over in rapid succession....

Anyway, here's why I actually looked up this thread...

5970360335_5b02464537.jpg

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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