Saturday, 22 March 2014


Now what can be said of such a classic comedy movie from one of the greatest comedy group ever that hasn't already been said? And doesn't just descend into a tangle of quotes lines?

Well this... (which you may read in an outRAGEous French accent Cleese style if it helps) 

...To start with, it's often overlooked how well-filmed this movie is.  Directed by the two Terrys, both had little experience behind the camera but both had plenty of ideas how it should be done. And indeed the pair proceeded to drive the rest of the Pythons and the crew completely nuts by making them stand around for ages until they could get the perfect. And the bulk of filming was outdoors on locations, this meant waiting until the weather would deign to cooperate. 

However their patience did pay huge dividends, for just look at the use of light and shadow and the dramatic cloudscapes they capture in this movie. Seriously folks, you don't often see such painterly cinematography, mainly because experienced directors wont waste time and money waiting for the bloody weather to get its act together. However I'd also argue that few directors have the same kind of visual imagination of the Pythons that leads to standing around in drizzle just waiting for that moment when the sun breaks through the shot will look like a painting by an old master. 

The other mostly over-looked point concerns the film's structure itself. The plot line is fragmented and almost non-linear, and many have pointed and said it is just a set of themed sketches. And furthermore, the received wisdom goes this was because the Pythons were coming to the big screen from a small screen sketch show. Indeed their first foray into cinema - And Now for Something Completely Different (1971) - had been just a re-filming of a selection of sketches from their TV show. And hence Monty Python and the Holy Grail is often seen as an interstitial stage between their original sketch show and the full fledged comedy narrative of their next movie, arguably their cinema masterpiece, The Life of Brian (1979).  

But hold on! While that theory fits a nice pattern, it based upon looking at the history of the performers rather than the background of the source material the movie is parodying. Yes, we all know that the Pythons are having a surreal laugh at the legend of King Arthur.... but which legend? Unlike other classic myths and folk tales, there is no definitive version of the Arthurian stories. Rather there is a great swath of different versions all telling different stories, with an array of different knights, and many of them are incompatible and contradictory. Most don't tell the whole of King Arthur story, frequently being episodic and lacking a proper end.... Sound familiar?  

Yes folks, the ramshackle structure that veering all over the place like a pair of coconut laden swallows in a high wind isn't just sketch based comedian not knowing how to construct a feature length story for the big screen, but a joke in itself on the nature of Arthurian legends! 

Now go away before ah taunt you a second time! 

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