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Life of Brian


Anders
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I know we've had SO many threads on Jesus/Biblical films, yet no one has brought up what is one of my favorite: Life of Brian. Basically, besides being incredibly funny, I think it has some valid points to make to Christians, Jews, and the situation in the Middle East.

However, my main question would be: Is Life of Brian blasphemous?

Basically, this is a side tangent from the Last Tempation vs. Passion thread, and I'm just curious. Mostly because I like The Passion, Last Temptation and Life of Brian?

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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The target of the film's comedy is the folly of religious hysteria and human failing, not Jesus. In fact, the Pythons have famously testified that when they set out to make a comedy about Jesus, they discovered that no jokes made at Jesus' expense are actually funny. It's the most meaningful piece of work the Pythons did (even though I much prefer the absurdist extremes of Holy Grail.)

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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While a very funny film, and harmless in many ways (unless you are unable to laugh at yourself), the crucifixion scene does go too far with the song (but the "crack suicide squad" is funny). Apart from that, many scenes are quite good, especially: the Beatitudes, the Roman-guard-grammar check, the ascetic (Terry Jones), the stoning, the gourd/sandal schism, etc.

There is a brief nude scene and some course sexual talk/joking.

And boy, is that nude scene memorable. 8O <- Brian's reaction.

I did find the initial part of the crucifixion scene really funny - coming over the hill to find mass executions going on made me laugh so hard I had to rewatch part of the ending.

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Alan wrote:

: . . . the crucifixion scene does go too far with the song . . .

In what way do you think the song goes too far? Personally, I think it's worth noting that the Pythons themselves have described this film as a Buddhist take on Christianity -- something that is implicit not only in the nihilism implicit in the film's absurdism, but also in the opening title sequence, where a lotus flower rises out of the wreckage of Christian European civilization.

FWIW, this film is #8 on my all-time top eleven list. Here are a couple of excerpts from my Books & Culture article on Jesus movies that touch on this film:

The secular Jesus films of the past two decades have generally -- and unsurprisingly -- been critical of the church and of the tradition behind the Gospels, but they have also displayed a remarkable sympathy for Jesus as a character, or they have kept their hands off him altogether. One of the most fascinating films, in this regard, is
Monty Python's Life of Brian
(1979), an erudite send-up of Bible epics and first-century Palestinian politics that, frustratingly, continues to attract little serious attention from Jesus-movie scholars. [13]

Life of Brian
, written, directed, and performed almost entirely by the six members of the British comedy troupe Monty Python, exhibits much of the vulgar and irreverent humor that is the group's trademark. It also spices the religious satire with four-letter words and, in one scene, full frontal nudity. Not surprisingly, the film was banned in towns across Great Britain and the United States during its release. But it is not nearly as blasphemous as some people suppose. In fact, it captures aspects of the Gospels that other films miss.
Life of Brian
avoids mocking Jesus himself, and satirizes instead the sorts of crowds that went looking for messiahs all over Palestine; the title refers to a Jewish revolutionary who is mistaken for a prophet.

Hence the focus of the film is on rival misunderstandings of Jesus' teachings and on the absurdity of those groups that fight amongst themselves over trivial issues. There is even a reference to the ungrateful lepers that Jesus healed (Luke 17:11-19). In one scene, an "ex-leper" begs Brian for alms and complains that Jesus took away his one sure source of income; when Brian grumbles that there's no pleasing some people, the ex-leper replies, "That's just what Jesus said, sir!"

Brian's frustrations, at times, echo those of the biblical Jesus. Jesus provoked his own listeners to think for themselves (Matt. 18:12) and he complained on occasion that his followers' minds were too dull (Mark 7:18 ). But where Jesus taught with compassion, Brian is as neurotic as the eccentrics who follow him. In addition, the cult that builds up around Brian has nothing to do with the man himself. Like
Jesus Christ Superstar
,
Life of Brian
suggests, albeit indirectly, that the church is founded on a lot of misdirected hype. Although Jesus himself is left untouched, the film raises the possibility that his followers, like Brian's, got it all wrong.

[ snip ]

13.
, gives
Life of Brian
only two paragraphs and lumps it with
Greaser's Palace
, Robert Downey Sr.'s much more obscure (and much less funny) satire.
, includes
Life of Brian
in a chapter on the "scandal films" but gives it only three pages while devoting 21 pages to
The Last Temptation of Christ
.
, on the other hand, devote an entire chapter to the film.

And here is what I posted elsewhere after checking out both of the commentary tracks on the Criterion DVD:

For whatever it's worth, this is now the first film in my collection of which I can say I've actually sat through *both* commentary tracks. Director Terry Jones makes the point that
Life of Brian
is not "blasphemous", but it *is* "heretical"; that is, it does not mock or attack Jesus, but it does subvert traditional beliefs about him. I think that's perfectly alright, as far as it goes; after all, the Protestant Reformers were all "heretics" in the eyes of the Catholic church back then, weren't they? And for all I know, they still are. Terry Gilliam, somewhat more carelessly, says the movie is "anti-religious ... but not anti- anything that really matters." He does, however, say that his mother is a devout Christian, and that she didn't find the film too objectionable; in fact, she even recorded one of the four radio ads for the film, which are included on the DVD. Terry Jones says that the film is not a "parody", because parody mocks a form of art;
Brian
, on the other hand, mocks other things *within* the form of an ancient biblical spectacular. John Cleese, for his part, makes the point that you can only laugh at people whose behaviour is "inappropriate", which I think is as good an indicator as any that the film *is* coming from a moral point of view; as Eric Idle has said elsewhere (but not on this disc),
Life of Brian
is the most moralistic Python film, because it encourages positive behaviour, and it has a moral philosophy that isn't so explicit in their other films.

One of the neat things about
Brian
is the way it draws our attention, in good post-modern fashion, to the fact that there were other things going on, other stories to be told, while The Greatest Story Ever Told took place; in that respect, it kind of does for the Gospels what Stoppard's
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
does for Shakespeare's
Hamlet
. And I think one of the "deleted scenes" on this disc gets that across brilliantly. There are five deleted scenes altogether, and I think the Pythons were wise to cut them all out, but the one that works on its own terms -- even if it was better for the film as a whole to cut it out -- is the scene that was originally supposed to begin the film, in which three shepherds discuss the joy of being shepherds, while angels appear to *other* shepherds somewhere in the distance -- we see bright lights go on and off behind the main shepherds' backs, and then, a short while later, they hear a rustling noise and, thinking it might be a predator, they throw a rock into the bush. It turns out the noise was made by the shepherds who are on their way to Bethlehem, one of whom is hit on the nose by the rock; his friend is eager to tell the main shepherds the good news about the baby, but he cuts off his friend, refusing to share any news with the people who broke his nose. The main shepherds, having not heard the good news, yell that the other shepherds are "a disgrace to the profession" for rushing off to Bethlehem, no doubt heading to the pub to drink their fill, and abandoning their sheep to predators. Then, as the scene comes to its close, the coup de grace: One shepherd asks, "Is it A.D. yet?" And the other replies, "Quarter past, I think." If this had stayed in the film, the wise-men sequence would have followed it.

This is a brilliant scene on a number of levels, I think. First, as Eric Idle points out, whenever any event of major significance takes place, there are *always* people who miss it because they're busy with all the mundane things of life, "hoovering" and so on. But at the same time, the scene does make you wonder how we define the "significant" things in our lives to begin with. What's so mundane about shepherding, or any other job? The shepherds in this scene *love* their job, and they think their sheep are the most adorable creatures in the world. If they never hear about the miraculous baby in the manger, how worse-off would their lives really be? And what about that line about abandoning the sheep? Philip Yancey has remarked that Jesus' parables show a dreadful lack of logic, inasmuch as he compares God to a shepherd who abandons 99 sheep in order to save just one. I have heard many people talk as if the parable in question showed the shepherd moving the 99 sheep to a place of safety, behind a fence, but the actual text says no such thing. Don't the gospels themselves hint that the truth may lie in risky, dangerous, disgraceful actions? The scene also makes you wonder how God selects the people he visits and doesn't visit -- and it also makes you wonder, if God hasn't visited you, whether that is any reason to assume that his visits to others are of no importance to yourself. In most tellings of the life of Christ, we are often given the impression that Jesus healed everybody who crossed his path, but we are also told, in Acts, that there was at least one crippled man in the Temple who was healed by the apostles, apparently because Jesus never healed him during his visits there. Did Jesus deliberately ignore him, just so the apostles would have something to do when it was their turn to lead the church? Or did the crippled man just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when Jesus came by?

The various attitudes towards non-Christians reflected in the commentaries are rather interesting. Terry Jones says that Jews were the first to protest, even before Christians did, because of the scene in which John Cleese plays a priest who oversees a botched execution by stoning. (The film could have been a *lot* more offensive to Jews than it was; the "suicide squad" that now appears out of thin air at the end of the film is also in two of the "deleted scenes", in which they are portrayed as racist fascists who want to rid Palestine of all non-Jews; you also get a better look at the logo on their helmets, which is a combination of the Star of David and the Nazi swastika.) Terry Gilliam says, sarcastically, that the Pythons felt free to offend everybody but Muslims, because they didn't want a "fatwa" on their hands. And then there is the role of Buddhism in this film. Gilliam notes that his opening-credits sequence ends with an angel coming out of a lotus flower that "rises through the debris of western monotheism", and John Cleese says the song that ends the film, 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life', which tells people to cheer up because they came from dust and they're going back to dust so they haven't really lost anything, has an essentially Buddhist sensibility. (But doesn't Job kind of touch on that dust-to-dust idea too? Admittedly, Job never tries to overcome his troubles by whistling them away.) Eric Idle also says that the film takes a sort of "Buddhist look at Christianity", and he makes some wisecrack about doing a film on the Dalai Lama next.

With regard to Christian protestors, the Pythons don't say much, though Cleese recalls debating Malcolm Muggeridge on British television, and says the man was late for the preview screening and didn't get what the film was about and was generally "nasty" to deal with; he also talks of his experience seeing
The Last Temptation of Christ
in New York, and how he had good discussions with the people in the line-up, while he had little respect for the "fruitcakes" who were "posturing" outside the theatre.

A few final notes. Michael Palin says that, while Jesus was a unique man, Brian is more of an "everyman", and part of the appeal of making the film was showing how human nature hasn't changed over the years. Gilliam says one of the great things about the film is the way it underscores the "constant confusion over what is said and what is believed", which also reflects a post-modern sensibility, I think; the film's post-modernity is especially emphasized by the authors of
Savior on the Silver Screen
, the only book on Christ-movies I've come across so far that gives
Life of Brian
more than a token glance. They explore how the film is popular among younger audiences, who are comfortable with post-modern ambiguities and absurdities, but not so popular among the older crowd. They also point out that the film "is not about the speaker (whether Jesus, Brian, or the street preachers of ancient Jerusalem), but about the hearer."

And that's about all I've got to say about that. Now back to work.
smile.gif

But first -- as I was going through
Savior on the Silver Screen
just now, I came across another paragraph that I found kind of intriguing, so I'll pass that on as well, and y'all can make of it what you will.
Recycled image? Parody? If technology has shaped the course of politics, then it will continue to transform our image and expectations of the Savior and the silver screen. What does the "postmodern Jesus" look like? How does technology compel us to come to terms with our image of God? That is the question that faces us in these days of endless parody, the age of pastiche. To this end,
Jesus of Nazareth
, with its more or less gnostic strategy of evacuating historical meaning, makes a fine contrast to
Life of Brian
. Where the miniseries drew in its audience by a series of established conventions, Monty Python's appeal is to a postmodern, anticonvention audience comfortable with irony. Ostensibly, there is nothing "scandalous" about
Jesus of Nazareth
, but, accusations of "blasphemy' notwithstanding, perhaps it is
Life of Brian
that might engage students more fully in a discussion of our images of Jesus.

-- Richard C. Stern, Clayton N. Jefford and Guerric Debona,
, New York: Paulist Press, 1999, pages 262-263.

Make of all that what you will!

"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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Just to add my own two-penneth. I guess I find the film hilarious, but have always struggled with two things. Firstly the crucifixion scene, and secondly what seems to be an underlying assumption that it was all a mistake. I have to say that these teo things bother me less than ever, but sadly I'm starting to know it so well that the funny bits are getting overly familiar (tho I think Brian holds up to repeated reviewings better thn Holy Grail in this respect).

As far as the crucifxion scene goes I found Stern et al's comments on it very interesting. Essentially they say thatwe never really get the aloneness and the sense of deseertion Jesus must have felt on the cross. I guess no amount of "Eloi Eloi" kicks in when we know what happens next. Somehow the hopelessness of Brian's situation does this as his popularity vanishes and his friends are totally useless.

However, I also appreciate what Mike H said in his review at Flickerings: The final scene, though, of victims of crucifixion ala Spartacus singing "Look on the bright side of life," showcases the truly nihilist side of the Pythons and, as nihilism always does, calls into question any higher aim of their idol-smashing other than sheer delight in breaking things. Pointing out human absurdities always loses something if absolutely everything is absurd

As for the undeerlying thing, I'm still in two minds. I've come to reason that part of Brian's post-moderness is its lack of coherrence. So the film can suggest Messiah's cult following grew cos of misinterpretation and naivety, but also allow Jesus to have healed a Leper if it serves for some good gags (which it does). And I guess ultimately to this end I just see them taking shots at anything they find absurd, and as they do it so insightfully (and almost in keeping with some of the spirit of the bible in places) then I'm prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt. That said the working title for the film was "Jesus Christ: Lust for Glory" which gives me mixed feelings.

Anyway I've not really dwelt on what I love about the film. I guess mostly it seems to restore the normalness that's present in the gospels but seemingly cut out of most Jesus films. HOw can 9 of the Lepers not even bothered to thank Jesus? Why are we so quick to line up against each other and hype up non-events into works of God. Why do we seem to assume that everyone either loved or hated Jesus, whereas large numbers were probably indifferent?

Anyway I could go on, but I haven't got time....

Matt

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  • 3 weeks later...

My question is, will it have 25 seconds of extra footage like the 25th-annviersary re-issue of Monty Python and the Holy Grail did?

- - -

Monty Python's "Life of Brian" set for re-release

"Life of Brian" will open at the end of April in Los Angeles and New York before expanding to other cities across the country, Rainbow Film Company president Henry Jaglom, whose distribution arm is reissuing the film, said on Tuesday. Jaglom, a writer-director whose partner, John Goldstone, produced the original film, said trailers for the comedy would appear in theaters starting on Good Friday. "We decided this is an important time to re-release this film, to provide some counter-programming to 'The Passion,'" Jaglom told Reuters. "I intend it, hopefully, to serve as an antidote to all the hysteria about Mel's movie." He said marketing for the re-release would play off Gibson's film by adapting such taglines as "Mel or Monty" and "The Passion or the Python" -- "we want to give people a choice."

Reuters, March 24

"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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Never thought it was blasphemous or offensive. I must see it again as it is, next to Meaning of Life my favorite Python by far.

remember: Blessed are the cheesemakers.

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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WOW. I knew you were liberal. I never would have thought you to be liberal theologically, though. That sounds like something Darrell would say. It's so universalist.

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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Never thought it was blasphemous or offensive. I must see it again as it is, next to Meaning of Life my favorite Python by far.
Heard Eric Idle on NPR tonight talking about the rerelease. He denied that it was blasphemous, because it does include the real Jesus twice (at birth and sermon on the mound), so it's not really dealing with him. He hedged a bit on whether it was heretical.
A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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Darrel Manson wrote:

: Heard Eric Idle on NPR tonight talking about the rerelease. He denied

: that it was blasphemous, because it does include the real Jesus twice (at

: birth and sermon on the mound), so it's not really dealing with him. He

: hedged a bit on whether it was heretical.

Well, Terry Jones is the director, and as per the quote above, HE certainly doesn't hesitate to say that the film is "heretical"!

BTW, I've been going over some notes I made on life-of-Jesus films back in my university days -- nearly a decade ago, now! -- and thought these excerpts from George Perry's Life of Python (London: Pavilion Books Limited, 1983) might be of interest to this board:

p. 98: [John Cleese:] "...we had a very good time together on
The Life of Brian
, the most satisfactory project we have ever done."

p. 166: Eric Idle had, during a promotional tour for
Holy Grail
, quipped to a reporter when asked what the next Python film might be: "
Jesus Christ - Lust for Glory!
" When discussions began in earnest to seek a theme, they kept returning to a biblical motif. It was, they felt, an area ripe for sending up. Not only was the ground stony with taboos and problems of taste, but as a genre of cinema it was noted for the turgid, overblown spectacles of Cecil B. DeMille. They began thinking on the lines of an alternative life of Christ, and then switched to a new character who just happened to be present during the important moments of his life, a sort of thirteenth apostle who kept arriving too late to make any impact on history.

p. 167: [The $4.5 budget] meant that foreign locations were possible, and as Tunisia had been used for the ambitious television mini-series
Jesus of Nazareth
, directed by Franco Zeffirelli, and several sets had been left standing
in situ
, the two Terrys flew off to do some scouting, while production and costume designs were turned into reality, and shooting was scheduled to commence in April 1978.

pp. 167,169: At this point, the influence of the aforementioned Mrs Whitehouse, self-appointed guardian of national morals, was suddenly felt. She had, by great zeal and determination, brought her private prosecution against the newspaper
Gay News
, and its editor Denis Lemon, for giving space to what she considered was a blasphemous poem in that it suggested a / homosexual attraction between a Roman centurion and Christ on the cross.

p. 169: [EMI cancelled the film; George Harrison formed HandMade Films]

p. 170: It was clear that they had gone to some trouble to ensure that no-one who saw the film could possibly confuse their Judean hero for Christ. ... In fact, as any historian can confirm, crucifixion was a common Roman punishment and such mass executions did occur.

The humour in the film to a large extent depends on the juxtaposition of historical settings and characters with modern attitudes and modes of speech. The People's Liberation Front of Judea, a terrorist organisation plotting to kidnap Pilate's wife and other heinous acts to demoralise the occupiers of their country, conduct their clandestine meetings like the convening of a bunch of trade union shop stewards. ... The film shows a people desperately looking for a Messiah, so much so that for a time they believe that Brian is indeed the one.

pp. 170-171: The
Gay News
case had altered the climate in which the film was to open. Although the majority of people in Britain were not likely to object, the legal finding of blasphemy had sharpened the axes of the Festival of Light, who without having seen the film, denounced it. The British Board of Film Censors, a voluntary body appointed by the industry to issue a certificate to all films shown in British cinemas, had been formed generations earlier to protect the industry from many scores of local authority bodies throughout the country who felt a right to vet everything that would play in their areas. In this instance, the BBFC was unwilling to issue any rating until legal opinions had been sought. In Canada a radio programme about the making of the film was banned by CBC, who had already dropped the Python television series, and faced a demonstration of McGill students in Montreal dressed as Gumbies ... Their action gave Methuen, the Pythons' publishers, great qualms, and the elaborate book of the film that they were preparing was in jeapordy. But in August 1979 the BBFC passed the film without cuts, awarding it an AA certificate, which meant that it was restricted to the over-fourteens. In the United States the film opened the same month with an R rating, indicating that it could be shown to those under seventeen if accompanied by an adult. However, attacks were immediately mounted by religious organisations of several faiths, with Catholics condemning it, thus making it a sin to go to a showing. A pressure group, Citizens Against Blasphemy, was formed and attempted without success to bring a prosecution. However, demonstrations and denunciations flourished, and clearly most of the protestors were basing their outrage on what they supposed was in the film. William Buckley, the articulate right-wing
New York Post
columnist, even thought that Monty Python himself was crucified at the end of the film, a conclusion that had never occurred to the / makers. When it went on release in America the great Bible Belt became incensed and in many small towns in southern and south-western states local pressures caused it to be banned or terminated in mid-run. Nevertheless, the publicity engendered by the controversy helped to ensure a healthy box-office return in the places where it was allowed to be seen without interference, and the film was already in profit by the time it opened in London in November.

pp. 171-172: The Festival of Light, aware that the fuss in America had been unhelpful to their cause, changed their tactics and adopted a more low-key approach, lobbying local authorities to overrule the BBFC and ban the film outright in their areas. In spite of the presence of the BBFC such local options are possible but rarely carried out, except in certain areas notorious for their refusal to conform with the classifications. When
The Life of Brian
opened, John Cleese and Michael Palin appeared on a BBC chat show hosted by Tim Rice, and were savagely attacked by the Bishop of Southwark and Malcolm Muggeridge, who had seen the film earlier in the day. A fierce one-sided argument developed, the Bishop suggesting that they would get their thirty pieces of silver for it. Cleese's protestation that the film was really about closed minds not being / prepared to question faith rather than an attack on faith itself, was glossed over by their voluble critics. It was Tim Rice's first experience of hosting a chat show. "I just left them to get on with it," he says.

p. 172: The film was banned outright in some parts of Britain, including Surrey, Hereford, much of Berkshire, Cornwall, West Yorkshire, and in other places it was uprated to an X-certificate which kept the under-eighteens away entirely. One district council took pleasure in banning it, even though there were no cinemas within its purlieu.

Tim Rice -- the guy who wrote the lyrics to Jesus Christ Superstar (and, later, Disney's King David) -- hosted that Cleese-Muggeridge exchange? The one that caused Cleese to say on the DVD that Muggeridge was "nasty" to deal with and had been late for the screening and therefore didn't know entirely what he was talking about? Interesting!

Oh, and IIRC, the reason the Gay News controversy comes up is partly because one of that publication's sponsors was Graham Chapman, i.e. the guy who plays Brian.

"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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Jesus Christ - Lust for Glory!

I think that subtitle is my very favourite thing about the film. Trust the Pythons.

Other favourite sequence: the beggar who's angry at Jesus for healing him and destroying his livelihood. Some substantial insight there, I'd say.

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Ron wrote:

: : Jesus Christ - Lust for Glory!

:

: I think that subtitle is my very favourite thing about the film.

Actually, it's not a subtitle, and I don't believe this string of words ever appears in the film itself -- rather, this phrase is something Eric Idle said off-the-cuff when he was asked what the next Python project might be. In a video on the Python troupe -- Life of Python, I think it's called -- Idle talks about how he had a thing for getting into trouble back then, making remarks like that, but once the Pythons decided to go ahead with this project, they did their research and read the New Testament (and the Dead Sea Scrolls, and histories of the period, etc., etc.) and realized you couldn't make fun of Jesus because he was actually saying some very good things (and as Cleese says in the DVD commentary I quote above, you can only make fun of people whose behaviour is "inappropriate"). But the Pythons also realized that they could make fun of lots of OTHER things in the generic context of a Bible-epic spectacular.

: Other favourite sequence: the beggar who's angry at Jesus for healing

: him and destroying his livelihood. Some substantial insight there, I'd say.

Yeah, I've used that clip in one or two of my Regent sessions, and I singled it out in the excerpt from my article above. Brings to mind that story in Luke's gospel about the ungrateful lepers, no? It occurs to me, on seeing bits like this, that the typical Jesus movie FLATTERS its audience, by showing us how awestruck everyone was by Jesus -- everyone, that is, except for those nasty authorities. But the gospels also suggest that some of us might be just as stupid, petty and selfish after meeting (and being healed by!) Christ as we were before, and whereas most films in this genre avoid this theme, Life of Brian sticks it in our face.

"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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: then switched to a new character who just happened to be present

: during the important moments of his life, a sort of thirteenth apostle who

: kept arriving too late to make any impact on history.

s'funny this doesn't sound so much like Life of Brian as the shamless cash in Wholly Moses. In Brian the protagonist is doing similar things at similar times (albeit unintentionally), in Wholly Moses Herschel (Dudley Moore) misses out on all Moses's opportunities, by being in slightly late, or in slightly the wrong place when God breaks in.

this phrase is something Eric Idle said off-the-cuff when he was asked what the next Python project might be. In a video on the Python troupe -- Life of Python, I think it's called -- Idle talks about how he had a thing for getting into trouble back then, making remarks like that, but once the Pythons decided to go ahead with this project, they did their research and read the New Testament (and the Dead Sea Scrolls, and histories of the period, etc., etc.) and realized you couldn't make fun of Jesus because he was actually saying some very good things (and as Cleese says in the DVD commentary I quote above, you can only make fun of people whose behaviour is \"inappropriate\"). But the Pythons also realized that they could make fun of lots of OTHER things in the generic context of a Bible-epic spectacular.
Ah that's interesting (yeah I know you've already said it so I should have picked it up first time), but I've always felt a bit uneasy about the "Lust for Glory" quote. This is partly cos even tho' I knew the Idle story I'd also heard that it was a working title, but I suspect that this was an IMDB-ism linked from the quip story.

But the gospels also suggest that some of us might be just as stupid, petty and selfish after meeting (and being healed by!) Christ as we were before, and whereas most films in this genre avoid this theme, Life of Brian sticks it in our face.
Interestingly had Mel Gibson adopted this approach it might have saved him some of that Anti-semitism hassle.

Matt

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Link to the new, Brian-heavy 'Crucifiction' thread.

"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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I believe my favorite bit from the movie was the women dressed as men stoning the condemned man. I think this speaks to us as believers in oh, so many ways.

I think attempting to judge the spirituality of any motion picture not produced at least under the unction of the Spirit seems pointless and may actually lead to tooth decay. I mean, why spiritualize a great comedy when it is funny just on its own?

A noted and renouned pastor here on the left coast was heard to retort one day before his congregation of thousands:" I know a lot of you out there won't watch any movies above a "G" rating so all I can tell you is, you sure have missed alot of good movies!"

Loved the movie, wasn't offended at all and would watch it again except this time I would need to watch out for my orange squishy styro-foam ear plugs that always seem to find their way into my cheetohs! laugh.gif

Wandering Jew.

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The stoning scene is one that I've wondered why hasn't been discussed more as an example of the film's alleged blasphemy. One of the primary jokes involves getting Jews to accidently say the name of a deity that the Orthodox won't even spell (as in G_d). Is it safe to say that this might be considered blasphemy from a Jewish perspective? Or is this just more good natured fun? I have no idea. (FWIW, I thought the gag worked better in Grail, when the Knights of Ni kept saying their Sacred Word: It. Oh, dear. Now I've said it. Oops, I said it again...)

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I love the stoning scene. It reminds me of the time I was in Grade 3 or so, and my friends and I were going to snitch on someone who had said a certain word on the playground. One of my friends said, "He said the s-word," and I, for the sake of clarity, and honestly not for the sake of shock value, said, "Yeah, he said shit." Suddenly my friend turned and pointed at me and said he was going to snitch on me, too. I was kind of surprised, because I didn't see how you could quote what a person had said without actually quoting the person properly.

It kind of reminds me of the way I had a policy, as a child, of never ever talking while watching Sesame Street, EXCEPT to say aloud the words that appeared on the screen. I was never really sure whether I ought to say aloud the words that happened to appear on mailboxes and people's T-shirts, etc. Were those "words on the screen", or were they only set decoration that the camera just happened to catch? I think I waffled on this by saying those words, but under my breath. (The other big debate for me was whether I should say a word multiple times when it flashed on-screen, or just once. I can't remember how I resolved that.)

I was such a Talmudic little twit, wasn't I.

"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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Mike_H asked if orthodoxy would find the stoning sequence blasphemy?In my zeal for the law in the past I may have been bothered or even a little angered by the complete disregard for the sanctity of the Torah so, yes, most true orthodoxy would be offended. However, seeing as the entire life of the messiah is held in low esteem and somewhat regarded as a naughty sub-religion out of Judaism, you know, the red headed step child that you are responsible for but really don't care for? That would be a fair position to begin to judge from.

Take Mel Brookes for example: His portrayal of the catholic inquisition in the "History of The World" may offend catholics but most I know find that seqeunce hilarious. Here's a yiddish director poking fun at the ignorance of the "church" in its past. Did I rise to think about labeling it blasphemy?

No, since Mel Brookes is neither qualified nor would care to represent christianity at all. He's a movie maker.(and one I can't help but admire) I guess what I'm trying to say is that Orthodoxy won't waiste valuable thought processes on trying to judge some one who in the first place is neither qualified or noted as an authority on Torah, The writings, or any of the fundamentals of Judaism. See?

Its like asking the gas attendant for advice on rebuilding your engine.

You probably wouldn't ask him, you'd find a certified mechanic, therefore:

Anything the gas attendant says can be taken with a large grain of salt or even dismissed.

Nu, no-one mentioned the aliens that picked up Brian. Too funny!

Shalom!

Wandering Jew.

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there were many other alleged "Messiahs" at the time of Christ, and many were no doubt crucified for subversion to Rome. of those alleged "Messiahs," Brian is most definitely my favorite.

i think it's blasphemous to consider this film blasphemous, really (at least from a Christian perspective...I know how Jews feel about the name of God, as Wandering pointed out, and sensitivity should always be applied to that topic) - if you consider it blasphemous, then you obviously consider the character of Brian to be a Christ figure, if not Christ himself. and he most definitely is not.

-seth

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if you consider it blasphemous, then you obviously consider the character of Brian to be a Christ figure, if not Christ himself. and he most definitely is not.  

no. in fact, he's a very naughty boy.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Idle Insists Brian Died Better Than Jesus

Eric Idle has compared his crucifixion in Monty Python's The Life of Brian (he's credited as a "crucifee") with the latest one in The Passion of the Christ and has found his own infinitely superior. Writing in Sunday's Los Angeles Times, Idle commented that although he hasn't seen the Mel Gibson film, "I gather that Mel doesn't handle the comedy too well, and he seems to totally ignore the singing opportunities of the crucifixion altogether. I suppose we should be grateful he makes a film where for once the Brits aren't to blame for everything." Idle indicated that both films owe their existence to the single-minded vision of one man, in Brian's case, the late former Beatle, George Harrison, who Idle disclosed, "mortgaged his home and put up all the money because, he said, 'he wanted to see the movie.' At $4 million, this is still the most anyone has ever paid for a movie ticket." Idle also credited Gibson for resurrecting Brian, "thanks to [the success of] his holy snuff film." The Life of Brian is due to reopen in limited release on April 30.

- - -

Apparently the Los Angeles Times article itself is only accessible to those who subscribe to calendarlive.com -- if anyone could e-mail it my way, I'd be most grateful. In the meantime, check out also Jack Matthews' 'My passion for Brian' in yesterday's New York Daily News.

"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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