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Monty Python, an iconic comedy troupe, were very popular during the 1970's, and their popularity culminated into sa series of films, the last one being The Meaning of Life. Satire is the very essence of this film, and there is plenty of it to go around.
The movie uses satire to question the ethics and decisions of modern British culture, such as a jab at the Catholic Church and their attitudes to contraception, an attack on modern British politics and more, the zany and wacky Monty Python never fail with their quick wit and slapstick comedy.
Even though the movie is quite old now, at 30 years as of 2013, it will still provide entertainment and laughs for most people, although I believe older people would enjoy Monty Python better as it would appeal to their upbringings.
Monty Python: The Meaning of Life is available at many DVD and video shops, however I would suggest purchasing this DVD online, as you can get great discounts and quick dispatch on Amazon and eBay, depending on who you buy from.
To conclude, the Meaning of Life is a great comedy movie that will surely garner some laughs, especially from people old enough to remember the great Monty Python, and even younger fans, and this is a must purchase for them.
RELEASED: 1983, Cert. 15
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 102 mins
DIRECTOR: Terry Jones
PRODUCER: John Goldstone
WRITTEN BY: Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Michael Palin & Graham Chapman
ARTWORK: Terry Gilliam
MUSIC: All Python team members, plus John Du Prez, Andrew Jacquemin & Dave Howman
Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman & Terry Gilliam
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Back in 1983, the Monty Python team released their follow-up to The Life Of Brian. I first saw it at the cinema in the spring of 1984, and until buying it on DVD in recent years when I treated myself to a couple of repeat viewings, I'd forgotten most of the film's content.
The Meaning Of Life begins with a fairly lengthy introduction, then takes the viewer through the Pythonesque stages of human existence from birth until death. These stages are, after the introductory piece (which briefly re-emerges later on in the film), Birth Parts 1 and II, Growth & Learning, Fighting Each Other, Middle Age, Live Organ Transplants, culminating with Death Parts I and II. Occasionally these sections are punctuated by fish swimming around in a tank which bear the Python Team's faces, commenting to one another on how the concept of life is shaping up so far.
I personally find the first part of The Meaning Of Life which centres around a London office block housing a company called Permanent Insurance, where the workers rise up and claim what they believe are their rights, to be rather tedious. It is cleverly written and very articulate, but for me it isn't a good tempter for what follows. However, the main body of the film from Birth right through until Death, does have its high spots to make up for the disappointing introduction.
The humour contained within is very typical of what one would expect from the Python team, albeit somewhat updated compared to their televised Flying Circus material from the very early 1970s. In The Meaning Of Life, the boat is pushed out a little further as regards what could or couldn't be considered decent, taking advantage of more relaxed censorship rules.
The whole spoken dialogue is superb....not always amusing, but cleverly thought out and spoken with clear diction which is something I find very pleasing. Much of this dialogue is socio-political comment taken to the extreme, but that is part of the Python label of silliness. However, there are several songs featuring in the film which are rather shoddy, and I'd have preferred them to be omitted altogether as they cheapen the humour levels which true to form, are wry, silly and sharp....that is except for one, being a cleverly written little ditty all about the male appendage!
A couple of scenes and some of the dialogue could possibly, even today, be considered controversial, but I don't personally find such to be a problem as I have a black, irreverent sense of humour. However, there is one part of the film - or should I say one of the characters - which I really don't like, that being the infamous Mr. Creosote and the restaurant scene where he is the dubious star. For those who've not seen The Meaning Of Life and want to learn more about this truly loathsome character, I suggest watching the film, but you may find that you feel the same way about him as I do....he is utterly vile and disgusting.
As with all Monty Python material from their inception to their last fully collaborative work (which I perhaps wrongly believe was The Meaning Of Life), the various sections are punctuated with short bursts of Terry Gilliam's wonderfully surreal cartoons. I would like to have seen more of them though, as this is a film which could easily withstand a much larger dose....differently to The Life Of Brian in which (apart from one beautifully bizarre scene) they would not have been appropriate.
There is no doubt about it that as well as being skilled and innovative comedy writers, the Python team members are excellent actors. Even when smashing through the barriers of ridiculousness (humour-wise), each member can turn his hand towards playing almost any role with true perfection, as is the case in The Meaning Of Life.
Although the introductory piece (Permanent Insurance), Mr. Creosote and a couple of more minor sketches and scenes - plus most of the songs - within The Meaning Of Life leave a little bit to be desired as far as my own opinion is concerned, overall, this is an incredibly well-made film which in parts really pushes the barriers. It is now thirty years old, but some of the ideas and the way they are presented still could come across as shocking to some degree for a few people, but that is the Python way. Everything is presented in a very polished style though, and I'd imagine this was quite a complex film to direct, write, produce and act.
Although I adore the whole Monty Python team, my favourite when they are working together as opposed to solo has always been Eric Idle, and he doesn't disappoint in The Meaning Of Life....well, maybe apart from one of the songs he sings.
In some ways, The Meaning Of Life is more enjoyable than something from the team's early years, simply because filming techniques, special effects and the liberalisation of censorship allowed them to create something visually more hard-hitting. This film is far more polished than perhaps The Holy Grail, but possibly falls down just a notch or two with the content of the humour rather than the quality of it.
Although The Meaning Of Life isn't my favourite Python film, I definitely would recommend it. Should you choose to watch it and find the opening section as tedious as I do, I urge you to soldier on, as it does get much better once that bit is over....the slight return to it later in the film is more acceptable, due to the context it moves itself into and it being much shorter than the introductory part.
The things which prevent me from awarding a full house of stars are the opening section (Permanent Insurance), the songs and Mr. Creosote....ughh how I hate that character! I can understand the inclusion of him and why, but I'd rather look away from the screen or fast-forward when he makes his appearance. I suppose though, having seen the film quite a few times, I now know when he's about to enter the proceedings and can gird my loins accordingly, but my first viewing of him back in 1984 did horrible, horrible things to my constitution and sense of well-being.
At the time of writing, The Meaning Of Life can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £2.40 to £19.99
Used: from 1p to £7.73
Collectible: fro £5.99 to £9.99
Some DVDs on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
After the runaway success of The Holy Grail and The Life of Brian, the Monty Python team returned in 1983 with one last film. Whereas their previous two efforts had seen them make an effort at some sort of plot (however silly), The Meaning of Life was a less structured affair.
The Meaning of Life saw the team returning to their roots with a film that is essentially a series of sketches loosely connected by the idea of the journey through life, from birth to death. In essence, though, it's little more than an excuse for the Python team to throw a load of random ideas at the screen for one last time and see what happens.
The film does not kick off promisingly. There is a woefully unfunny (and massively overextended) "support feature", featuring a bunch of accountants who become pirates and sail around the city in their building attacking other financial institutions. Yes, it really is as funny as it sounds. About the "best" joke in this segment is a song which has a pun on Accountancy/Accountant's Sea. It possibly seemed like a good idea when the team wrote it, but it is so spectacularly poor that I can honestly say I have never once laughed at anything in it. This seriously weak opening makes you wonder whether the Python team have lost their edge and makes you fear for the rest of the film.
Thankfully, things get better. Whilst The Meaning of Life never comes close to recapturing the glory days of the Pythons, at least it never sinks back to the depths of the opening sequence. Whilst there are only a couple of sketches that will have you laughing out loud, almost all will make you laugh or at least smile at some point. Throw in some eminently quotable dialogue ("wa-ferr thin"), memorable characters (both good and bad) and utterly absurd sketches and you'll soon find yourself having fun.
When The Meaning of Life hits the right notes it manages to capture the inventive, absurd and surreal humour of the TV show. A couple of inspired sketches really capture the Python's earlier madcap humour (the "every sperm is sacred" song-and-dance routine and the Proud Protestant rant that follow it are particularly good, as is "the machine that goes 'ping'"). Sadly, those two moments occur fairly early on and The Meaning of Life never comes close to matching them again and for every truly great sketch, there are three mediocre or poor ones.
The return to the sketch show format sometimes works against the film and weaknesses that were sometimes apparent in the TV show re-emerge. Many of the sketches have the germ of a good idea, but it rapidly becomes clear that the team were unsure how to develop it to its full potential. As with the TV show, several sketches are too long and continue well past the point at which they ceased to be funny; others fizzle out disappointingly, as though the Pythons didn't know how to end them. These were problems which afflicted the TV show, but when transferred to the big screen they become more obvious.
The sketch format also leaves the film feeling a little incoherent and unstructured. Beyond a loose theme based around the different ages of man (birth, death etc.), there is no real link between any of them and there are times when it feels a little disjointed. The Life of Brian and Holy Grail didn't make a lot of sense if you stopped and thought about them, but they felt consistent. The Meaning of Life is inconsistent both in the quality of the sketches and the look and feel of the film.
At least some things never change and the Python team, show that they are still capable of creating memorable characters. The work is shared out between the various Pythons (although John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Michael Palin feature in the lion's share of the sketches) and they prove to be as likeable silly as ever. Sure, they might conform to the stereotypes we have seen them play dozens of times before (Cleese the upper class snob, Palin the loud Yorkshire man or middle class twit), but these are characters which they have made memorable and they play them so well that it's good to see them get one last outing. However, with the exception of the grotesque Mr Creosote, there are probably no truly memorable characters, just acceptable ones.
The Meaning of Life is a real mixed bag. Yes, it will sometimes make you laugh, but it feels over-stretched - like an episode of Flying Circus that has been expanded to three times its normal lengths. This exposes some of the weaknesses of the format and leaves you feeling slightly underwhelmed by what you have seen. It never comes close to capturing the high points of the previous two films and only occasionally recalls the glory days of the TV series. Fans of Python will find enough to keep them entertained; newcomers will wonder what on earth all the fuss is about.
After the sublime Life of Brian and Holy Grail, it's a shame that the Python team's last official outing turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. The Meaning of Life is worth a watch every so often, but when you've seen the whole thing through once, you might be tempted on future views to skip over the weaker sketches and just watching the better ones.
The Meaning of Life
Director: Terry Jones
Running time: approx. 107 minutes
© Copyright SWSt 2012
I have to admit I was a great fan of everything the Monty Python team did during the height of their success many years ago now. I watched all the TV series and the movies that they made. Out of all the movies they made 'The Meaning of Life' is probably by far the crudest one out of all of them and most probably the one that caused the most controversy. They were never afraid to stretch the boundaries of what was acceptable in those days and this was released in the early 1980's. I have watched it many times over the years and although it's not my favourite movie they made it is still funny and also bizarre.
As the title sort of suggests in this particular offering the team look at life itself from birth right through to death and everything in between that makes up the unique tapestry of all individuals. Every aspect of life is explored and there are some moments that are memorable and moments that will offend as well. For anyone who is used to their TV Series this film is a little bit more off the wall and is offensive to some.
As well as birth and death they cover subjects such as sex education, war and organ transplants to name a few. One of my favourite things about this movie as opposed to the others was the songs in this. Two of my personal favourites were the Meaning of Life and the Galaxy Song.
Once again the animation is creative but I think perhaps at times they over did it slightly. Also the second half does get very strange. However, there are some very funny moments that you always find with this wacky group. If you love Monty Python then you should check out this film but it is crude and definately not one for younger viewers.
For me this is the worst of the three films which the Monty Python team did, that is if I am judging it as a film in the strictest sense of the word. . It really is more of a selection of sketches which have been loosely linked together as a journey through life. Some of the sketches are very good and very funny whilst others are a bit cringe worthy and about as funny as a wet weekend camping.
This sketch format really makes it a very odd type of 'film' and the 'intermission' bit where the game of 'find the fish' is played is so ridiculous it's unbelievable. This is perhaps part of the film that should have been left on the cutting room floor. Sometimes I wonder if some of these sketches are those which they knew they would never get passed the censors for the TV programme so why not use them in a film.
The meaning of life does feature a few more of Terry Gilliam's animations than we see in 'Life of Brian' but I feel he does give some of the weaker acting performances in the actual sketches. The rest of the Monty Python team all give good to very good performances but the one sketch set in a 'dungeon restaurant' is really bad and I have to fast forward through it.
As this is more a series of sketches, continuity of the Monty Python team playing many of the parts is less of a problem as it is in the other two films and this appears to help Eric Idle to put in a far better performance than he did in 'Life of Brian'. John Cleese is as good as he always was and does a superb job as the teacher/headmaster in the 'education' sketch. As the team were lacking any women it appears to have been left to Michael Palin, Eric Idle and Terry Jones to 'drag up' for most of the female parts.
The film carries a BBFC classification of 18 which I think is about right. Whilst there are no really violent scenes the 'strong' language is very frequent and the 'education' sketch may have been enough to give it the 18 rating on its own with it's rather novel way of teaching reproduction.
The DVD starts off with a short story set in an old firm of British accountants who have been taken over by an American giant. The British are all elderly but this doesn't stop them teaching the young Americans a lesson they won't forget. We then go into the main titles which as usual are done over Gilliam's animations. This film has the song 'The meaning of life' performed by Eric Idle. Not the funniest song in the film but it is a good opening.
Anyway, as it is really more of a sketch based film there is no real plot to speak of but some of my favourite bits are:
Birth: Well really there are two sketches for this but it is the second one which is the better of the two. Here we get the full performance of 'Every Sperm is Sacred' it was this one song which apparently took about a third of the entire films budget.
Education: Set in a public school we see the typical 'assembly' followed by the hymn to be sung then into the lesson. Well the lesson is on reproduction and with it being Monty Python I don't need to say just how this is taught, but it is certainly unorthodox.
In the posh Restaurant: This brings the " the customer is always right" motto to new extremes as we see the diner who has decided to eat his way through the entire menu, well up until the 'wafer thin mint' at the end anyway.
Death: a quaint little cottage with a dinner party which a very unwelcome guest gatecrashes. This really shows the stereotypical tolerance of the British with an unwelcome guest.
As it says on the cover of this dvd, 'It took God six days to create the Heavens and the earth...and Monty Python ninety minutes to screw it up'.
There is nothing so sacred that this team don't bring it down to the lowest common denominator. It's far out, crazy, irreverent and fun unless you are particularly religious and may be offended by some of the references to the Roman Catholic faith, and the miracle of birth.
It isn't one single film with a continuous story but more like a collection of Python skits all clipped together. In fact there are times when it's hard to tell how how you got to where you are in film, but that is the nature of the stuff produced by this talented team.
The dvd is divided into 14 chapters:
The crimson permanent assurance, originally meant to be a skit within the film but increasing in size and length until it had to be removed and show before the .big picture.'
The miracle of birth. There is some strange and puzzling stuff here as well as a collection of ribald songs and lots of very elaborate medical equipment including the 'machine that goes ping'.
The miracles of birth part 2: The third world. The famous 'Every Sperm Is Sacred' is sung in this chapter which satirises the Catholic Church's attitude to contraception.
Growth and learning. This includes a group of religious school boys singing, 'Oh Lord, Please Don't Bum Us.'
Fighting each other sees Michael Palin marching his soldiers up and down the square during World War 1. We also see the Zulu Wars.
The middle of the film. A game of find the fish involves a playboy, a drag queen and an elephant headed butler all trying find it.
Middle Age. A middle aged couple have nothing to talk about on a Hawaiian holiday so they order a conversation about the meaning of life. This is very bizarre as it moves from Hawaiian music to
the 'sending back' of the conversation as they are incurious about its content.
Live organ transplants. (Not quite what it seem...worse!) A very odd parody on organ donors and a desperate man's attempt to get the organs he wants. A man in a pink suit comes out of a refrigerator and sings to the donor's wife.
The autumn years. Noel Cowardesque Fop (Eric Idle) sings 'Isn't It Awfully Nice To Have A Penis?'
The meaning of life. This section contains two monologues going along the same vein as the rest of the film.
Death. This opens with a funeral and goes on to portray heaven as similar the Hawaiian scenes in the 'Middle Age' section.
The finale. Michael Palin dressed in drag, reads out a document called 'The Meaning of life'.
This is not a film for the easily offended, over sensitive or politically correct. It is quite strange and you need an equally warped sense of humour to enjoy it.
The whole thing is written and acted out by the six Pythons. John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin explain the meaning of life in a series of rude, tasteless sketches emphasising body parts and functions, birth, death and heaven which won the 1983 Cannes Film Festival Special Jury Prize.
Terry Jones directs the film and Terry Gilliam is responsible for animation and sequences and the whole thing is produced by John Goldstone.
In short, this is 103 minutes of irreverent, rude comedy sketches that need a very warped mind to enjoy them.
This is not a family film and anyone who is easily offended, especially by religious matters will not enjoy it. As for myself, I must be totally warped as I think it's written very well and is a tribute to the Monty Python team.
Monty Python have always done things a little differently, and so it brought a little smile to my face when I played my shiny new Meaning of Life DVD and it promptly started by the ?Universal? logo world being rolled away to be used as decoration for their menu page on the DVD. So, with mounting excitement, I chose to play the movie with prologue and was promptly greeted by a modern day Eric Idle and a fairly rubbish poem. Oh well, that?s only the prologue I thought to myself. The next sketch was odd (no surprises there, I suppose, it is the Python team after all), but not particularly funny. Some old blokes working in a financial place mutiny and sail around causing havoc in financial institutions everywhere. This becomes slightly funnier when it slots into the movie later on, but I can?t say I was splitting my sides watching it. Thankfully, once the actual movie gets underway, it improves a fair bit. It starts with fish. Yes, fish. Fish with faces, to be exact. Fish with faces who talk, to be even more precise. After the fish introduce the question of ?what is life all about? that we all face as they watch their friend being served on a plate (of course, we don?t usually experience watching our friend being served on a plate?just the meaning of life question!), the theme tune and animation sequence starts. The film is split into parts such as ?The Miracle of Birth?, ?Growth and Learning? and ?The Middle of the Film?. The film is composed of separate little sketches, most of them unrelated to each other, so it differs from Monty Python and the Holy Grail and A Life of Brian. Some of the sketches are pretty mad, such as Michael Palin as an army sergeant. Others a downright crude, such as John Cleese demonstrating sex
with his wife to his class of teenagers and others are rather amusing eg. the doctors coming to take a man?s liver and the grim reaper coming to a dinner party. However, on the whole I don?t think this movie is quite as funny as Holy Grail or A Life of Brian. It seems a bit to disjointed for me, and the characters all seem a bit more hollow which makes them less funny. A lot of the jokes just seem to be gross-out jokes, and this doesn?t appeal to me much. It?s still a good film to pass the time and have a couple of giggles, but I just don?t think it?s quite as witty or clever as the other two. As you might have guessed, you?re not going to sit down to a Monty Python philosophical treatise and come away enlightened. They do make a few stabs at explaining the meaning of life, but I wont spoil the movie by giving them away here. So what about the special features? Well there is a Director?s Cut, a commentary and a Soundtrack for the lonely (where someone coughs, shuffles and mumbles to themselves in the background) on Disc 1. On Disc 2 there is a documentary about the making of the movie, which gives some interesting insights into why this film didn?t turn out quite as good as the previous ones. There is deleted scenes, a spoof documentary on picking a really expensive school, a spoof advert advertising the movie as ?John Cleese?s Meaning of Life?, a documentary on remastering the film. Is that enough for you? No? Good, ?cause it?s not enough for the Python lads either! There?s also a documentary on the filming of some of the musical numbers, some alternative versions of the songs in the movie, TV spots, trailers and even an attempt at telepathically relaying the excitement of the film across to the potential viewer. There?s a rather odd ?virtual reunion?, a section entitled ?What Fish Think?,
there?s weblinks and credits. Phew?.nearly there. Finally, there are some DVD Rom features. Well, when I say ?some? I actually mean quite an impressive array. You?ve got the whole screenplay there, as well as the scripts for some missing scenes. On top of that you have the lyrics and the sheet music for the melody lines of the songs included in the film and some recipes! So it seems the lads have redeemed themselves when it comes to special features, at least! It?s worth buying the special edition DVD for the Special features alone, if you ask me, and although the film isn?t as good as the other ones the Pythons served up, it?s still enjoyable madness at its finest. It's a 15 and has enough sex and nudity to definately make it unsuitable for little ones, but is available for a reasonable price (I came across my copy for £14.99, I think). Capital letters courtesy of: http://www.chuckleweb.co.uk/fixit.php
Monty Pythons fourth and final feature film was greeted with a fair degree of criticism by the media and cinemagoers, some finding it unnecessarily gratuitous at the expense of the humour and others feeling disappointed by the return to a sketch-based style following their 1979 hugely popular comedy epic Life of Brian. While the Meaning of Life clearly doesnt succeed as a motion picture in the way that Life of Brian and Monty Python and the Holy Grail did, it also carries with it a very relaxed attitude that suggests the Pythons knew they had made their classics and now wanted to return to more familiar territory for a final cinematic fling: this is still a far cry from the classic Flying Circus television series however, based loosely on a musical concept and pushing the barriers of taste further than the team had previously been permitted or desired.
As usual, every member of the Monty Python team (Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin) wrote and starred in the film in a number of roles, mostly chosen according to each members strengths. Director Terry Jones housewife character was made famous in Life of Brian and returns here, albeit as a less aggressive mother figure, John Cleeses authority figures are better than ever and Eric Idle again plays several silly cockneys. Again. Its great to see Graham Chapman integrating as a regular player into the sketches after his leading roles in the previous films, but Terry Gilliams American accent and lack of acting experience again leads to smaller screen time for the wacky animator, although he does get to manufacture some more of those classic animations to link scenes and introduce the film (not to mention the short feature presentation, explained later).
There are some excellent ensemble scenes in which every performer contributes and these are some of my favourite scenes in the film: the World War I trench birthday celebrations, the excellent Zulu war section and, of course, the strange human-headed fish that occasionally comment on the film and are indeed the instigators of the title sequence once they see their fish friend Howard being devoured:
Cleese Fish: Makes you think dunnit?
Palin Fish: I mean whats it all about?
Chapman Fish: Beats me.
The Meaning of Life is divided into seven distinct (but quite loose) parts to reflect the seven stages of man in his eternal quest for the eponymous meaning of life. From The Miracle of Birth to Death, the development of humans and even our relative insignificance in the grand scheme of things are discussed, which would make for quite a prophetic film if anything genuinely fascinating was revealed. Instead, the Python team provide a collection of well thought-out sketches of varying quality (some quite dull and lacking the originality of the TV series; others rating among the best the team have created) along with a fair selection of musical numbers. Following are some of the most memorable scenes:
The Crimson Permanent Assurance a classic short film by Terry Gilliam (Time Bandits, Brazil, Twelve Monkeys) permanently tagged as the opening to this film. Aside from a brief mix with a later scene this is very different from the main film but is a great opening and I know a few people who prefer it to the main feature for its bizarre but believable fantasy world.
The Miracle of Birth I hate the damn Every Sperm is Sacred routine that cost a third of the films budget (apparently) but the birth scene and the impossible overcrowded Catholic household make a great opening to the film.
Sex Education one of the more adult scenes in which John Cleese performs intercourse with his wife as a demonstration to his class. Thankfully they are all played by adults and aside from the obvious shock value there are some excellent lines and decisions made, such as Terry Jones pupil trying to play Ocarina on his GameBoy.
Fighting Each Other a fun but brief scene in which Palin plays a maniacal screaming army officer is followed by a lengthy take on the Zulu wars, exaggerating the class division between officer and soldiers and leading to my favourite scene in the film as two men in a tiger skin try to explain their situation and deny stealing Eric Idles leg, eventually admitting oh, a leg there might be a leg around here somewhere, I think someone left it because they knew you were coming when the soldiers search the thicket. Brilliantly unexplained.
Mr. Creosote not one of my favourites, but the massively obese man played by Terry Jones who explodes when he eats too much food is clearly one of the most memorable scenes. A bit over-the-top for me though, Im surprised that the team resorted to things like this considering their track record (the violent and bloody Python classic Salad Days is hilarious for its unnecessary gore, but this doesnt feel like that. The same goes for the organ donor scene, although I quite like that).
The musical numbers include the afore-mentioned Every Sperm is Sacred, Eric Idles Universe Song and title theme and the dull Christmas in Heaven that is thankfully interrupted just prior to its conclusion by the low-key ending to the film.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Based on the horrific ending of the excellent Holy Grail where unexplained police cars halt King Arthurs final attack, the Python team could have been expected to avoid answering the ultimate question entirely. True, the film does veer wildly away from the discussion for almost the entire duration, and the section titled Part VI B: The Meaning of Life featuring a slightly irritating journey following Eric Idles French waiter from the city to the wilderness basically ends with him getting frustrated at his inadequacy and telling the audience to f*** off!, but Michael Palin does indeed answer the big question at the end, albeit dressed as a woman next to a flower pot with a hand in it. You have to watch the film to discover the true meaning, but now Ive said that, please dont rush out and buy this DVD to satiate your thirst its not worth it if you dont like the film.
SPECIAL EDITION DVD
The Meaning of Life has recently been re-released as a special edition, two disc DVD loaded with extras in a similar way to the earlier Holy Grail release (the special edition Life of Brian has yet to be released, despite it being introduced for Region 1 well over a year ago). I havent yet invested in this edition but from what Ive read on the internet it certainly does the film justice and includes full-length deleted scenes (including The Adventures of Martin Luther and more from the American tourist couple in their heavenly hotel), plenty of documentary and archive material and new audio commentaries one by Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam on directing the film, the other a commentary for the lonely in which Michael Palin watches the film in almost total silence, occasionally fidgeting in his chair or making small noise so you can imagine hes in the room with you. Great stuff!
The special edition includes the original film as well as a directors cut with the deleted scenes (isolated for viewing on disc two) re-inserted and is also a much clearer print than that of the first, very budget DVD release. For this reason, anyone interested in buying the Meaning of Life should consider investing in the special edition after all, this isnt a film you would buy if you werent a big fan.
This isnt the best Monty Python film and, discounting their original And Now For Something Completely Different which was a collection of reworked sketches from the TV series to sell the show to American channels, this is the least vital and enjoyable of the films. But saying that, I still really like it, and although I felt a little disappointed at some of the decisions made (especially involving the bizarrely popular Mr. Creosote explodes section that I find quite poor apart from Cleeses classic line its only waff-er thin) I realised I have watched this even more than Life of Brian. Not more than Holy Grail though, thats the film that really gets me going.
Some of the extreme violence is unnecessary and its strange that it made it into the film considering the self-censoring that the team (especially the more traditional-minded Cleese) often applied to their TV series, but theres enough variety to keep audiences interested throughout and feel intrigued about what is to come next. The visuals of this film are excellent and although it feels like a step back after the epic Life of Brian, this is essentially a film to please the fans rather than the critics. I wouldnt recommend it as a starting point to Monty Python though, and although Im usually very liberally minded about such matters (considering the kind of things I watched in my own childhood), this is not a film for children. Theyd only laugh at Mr. Creosote anyway, the young idiots.
I remember bunking off of school with my best friend in 1983 to see this movie. After all it was a Monty Python and it had only just been released. There was a cinema in town where they ran the same film back to back throughout the day - No idea why they did it, and I can’t ask them as they closed to make way for a trendy wine bar. Well, there we were, two 15 year olds sat in the middle of an otherwise empty theatre smoking tabs (you were allowed back then), eating popcorn (toffee, of course) and slurping on some fizzy pop (I could have sworn it was Lilt?) - but I digress..... We were lucky to get there just as the credits rolled up for the start of the film - now I don’t know about you, but ‘The Crimson Permanent Assurance’ feature’ette frightened me a little, lots of old men dressed as pirates working in the insurance field - very strange. But then again, it is Monty Python! The film is really a mixed bag of sketches, very loosely based around the ‘Meaning of Life’ (Birth, Sex, Middle age and Death etc) from Terry Jones (playing a catholic mother) giving birth to their 78th child and singing ‘Every sperm is sacred’ to the famous Mr Creosote sketch (for those of you who haven’t watched it yet, it’s about an atrociously obese man who is in a restaurant and after eating the entire menu 3 times over throws-up into a bucket, over a cleaner, over the other diners and after eating a ‘waaaaafer theen meent’ promptly explodes). Of course if I say that it’s a brilliant film with a laugh a minute script - I’d be lying through my teeth, but Cleese, Jones, Palin, Idle and Chapman really do work well together, bouncing the weirdness off each other and ending up with a ‘decent’ film. Just unfortunately not the classics comedy that either ‘Life of Brian’ or ‘The Holy Grail’ exudes. There are (of course) no
special effects in this movie, but the acting definitely makes up for any lack of interest by the team in that direction, there are a few Gilliam drawn animations (the tree of life always gets a giggle from me) and Eric Idle came up with some very good ditty's like ’The Penis song’ and the marvellous ’Galaxy Song’ at the end. The camera work doesn’t detract from the very flighty essence of the film, but it doesn’t exactly compliment it either. Ah well, at 15 years old I wasn’t really interested in a close-up of Eric Idles ‘bitten off by a tiger’s leg!’ Tasteless in places, sick, perverse, abstract and very funny in lots of parts this is a film to watch again and after a few years......... again. Did I get found out for bunking off of school? - You know I did, and my punishment was that I had to write up a 10-page review of the film ........ Grrrrrr.
A divine film, truely one of the greatest movies of our, or any other time. Only the Monty Python boys could get away with such a festival of disgusting jokes for a full hour and a half. The film, obviously from the title, tries to find the meaning of life. From Birth (London and Yorkshire) to Death, every stage is included. As well as, for some reason, "LIVE ORGAN TRANSPLANTS." We all know of the film's writers, who in this country has'nt heard of John Cleese, Michael Palin (travel the world if you like just don't expect us to follow you!), Eric Idle and Graham Chapman. They are milestones in the UK. Well, the film does look good despite its age. It's very well acted by a bunch of raving loonies. The laughter keeps on coming in and it is an all round classic. Watch out for John Cleese's sex education class - brilliant. That's about all I can say for this film - don't want to spoil it for anyone. GO AND RENT IT SOON!
You can imagine the scene, the Monty Python boys are meeting, probably in Michael Palin's house ( I hear his wife makes great sausage rolls) to discuss ideas for their new, and final, movie. Having tackled organised religion in "The Life of Brian" and outraged the Church, they have to decide who to tackle, and thus offend, this time. Perhaps after rejecting several ideas, a voice from the back of the room, probably John Cleese returned from the toilet, the effect of urine on porcelain being a well known inspirational aid, shouts. "I've got it guys! Lets do a movie that offends everybody!" And bloody hell ,they did it. So if you're at all sensitive and are either Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, a member of any religious body, male, female, black, white, American, Scottish, English, French, Northern, London urbanite, public school educated or offended by sexist comedy, strong language or scenes of extreme gore and violence, or female nudity or copious amounts of vomit you'll find something here to offend you, which goes for this op as well so you might want to look way now and I should say at this time that I do not subscibe to any views expressed in this movie or which may be described in this op. The movie, which is really an extended version of the tv show, is a series of sketches, linked very tenuously by the theme "The Meaning of Life". The sketches roughly trace out a life line thru birth to death, with various other skits on the human condition, but doesn't pretend to offer a profound comment on our existence or why are we here (would we expect it to?) and some of the sketches seem have no connection with this meaning of life theme (Live Organ Transplants?) but dang it all, it is all very funny. As usual with the Python movies, all the major parts are played by the members of the team, sometimes having more than one role in a sketch. The movie actual begins wi
th a second feature (anybody here old enough to remember when you used to get a supporting feature when you went to the pictures?) about the pirates of the Crimson Permanent Insurance company... ..before going into the movie proper. The sketches are split up into themed sections: THE MIRACLE OF BIRTH - A woman gives birth in hospital, surrounded by the most expensive equipment in the hospital, including the machine that goes "bing!". Hospital Administrator - "What are you doing this morning?" Doctor - "It's a birth." Hospital Administrator - "Ahh and what sort of thing is that?" Doctor -"Thats when we take a new baby out of a ladies tummy." Hospital Administrator - "Wonderful what we can do now adays." Only a short sketch but succesfully attacks the way that modern medicine is more interested in achieving targets and meeting budgets than actually treating patients. THE MIRCALE OF BIRTH -PART 2:THE THIRLD WORLD - In this case, Yorkshire. Terry Jones gives birth at the sink, "she" has hundreds of childern, because, you see, she and her husband are Catholics and of course Catholics must breed. Unfortunately father, Michael Palin, has lost his job at the mill so has to sell the children for medical experiments. Features the song "Every Sperm is Sacred", the chorus goes: "Every sperm is sacred Every sperm is great If a sperm is wasted God gets quite irrate" So having had a pop at the Catholics or rather the over populating of the world caused the opposition to birth control, we get balance by having a pop at the Protestants. Graham Chapman is the stereo-typical stoney faced Protestant bigot, waxing lyrical on condoms and sex. Husband - "Because we don't believe in all that Papist clap-trap we can take precautions" Wife - "What d'you mean? Lock the door?" PART II GROWTH & LEARNING - After a short section of what I assume to be a typical church lesson at a public school, we get down to the main business of the day, sex education. No videos of humping bunnies, or birds & bees. this is the real thing. To ram home the point of his lesson, the teacher has sex with his wife in front of the class Teacher - "Do stand up when my wife enters the room Carter" A bit embarrassing if you watch it with your parents but pretty funny and gives John Cleese another excuse to get his kit off again. PART III:FIGHTING EACH OTHER - In the trenches during WWI, a division of soldiers are about to go over the top, so the tommys have a wip round and buy some presents for their captain, unfortunately getting picked off one-by-one during the presentation. Bizarre but very funny. Then a small linking piece of Graham Chapman as a high ranking official army type explains why we will always need an army and "may God strike me down were it to be otherwise" <cue the hand of God> leads into Michael Palins sergeant major marching up and down the square. Still with something to say on the this stage of life, we get another sketch this time set during the Zulu Wars. One of the British officers has been badly bitten during the night, so badly bitten that his leg has come right off at the knee, the culprit? A tiger. A tiger in Africa?. So of they go looking for the tiger which actually turns out to be........you wouldn't believe me. Very silly. THE MIDDLE OF THE FILM - A fantastic link brings us to this part, which features a bizarre game "Find the Fish" which has Graham Chapman in a basque reciting a bizarre peom about a fish whilst a strange elephant headed creature fondles a plug dangling from Grahams crotch!?!?! PART IV:MIDDLE AGE - A typical middle aged American co
uple are looking to eat in a typical American themed hotel and are guided to the Dungeon room, genuine Hawaiin food served up in an authentic medival English dungeon!! However there is no food on the menu, only conversations, so they go for philosophers, who of course attempt to describe the human condition and the meaning of life, yah see the connection? Yeh, perhaps just a little too clever. PART V:LIFE ORGAN TRANSPLANTS - Graham Chapman and John Cleese are working for the liver transplant service, unfortunately their donors are still alive at the time of donation. Potentail Donor - "But it says in the event of death." Hervester - "No-ones ever had there liver taken out by us and survived." The actual harvesting of the liver is horrific, altho you don't see the actual incisions, you see the flaying limbs of the donor, hear his tortured screams as Graham Chapman gets covered in tons of blood and gore and miscellaneous bits of flesh. This tenuously links into a song, sung by Eric Idle emerging from a fridge in a pink suit to sing the "Galaxy Song": "Pray that there's intelligent life some-where up in space coz theres bugger all down here on Earth" At this point the movie is invaded by the pirates from the supporting feature shown at the start of the movie!!(I'm not making this up), altho steps are taken to remove them. PART VI:THE AUTUMN YEARS - This is definitely my favourite part. It's a posh restaurant. We begin with "The Penis" song from Eric: "You can wrap it up in ribbons You can pop in your sock But don't bring it out in public Or they'll put you in the dock" And then in walks. Mr Creosote, a fat corpulent pig of a man: Waiter - "Good afternoon sir and how are we today?" Mr C - "Better" Waiter - "
Better?" Mr C - "Better get a bucket, Im gonna throw up" And by jingo he does, tons of the stuff, everywhere; in the bucket, on the carpet, on the menu, on the waiter, on the cleaning woman. By the end of the meal, which comprises the entire menu, twice and a several crates of brown ale, Mr Creosote is fit to burst, quite literally. The waiter tips him over the edge with a wafer thin mint. This causes Mr Creosote to balloon up and explode covering the restaurant and diners in tons of vomit and gore. Honestly it sounds disgusting but it is very very funny. PART VIb:THE MEANING OF LIFE - No not really, the cleaning lady clearing up the remains of Mr Creosote, waxes lyrical on all the great places of learning she has worked in, and the fact that despite all the great works she has read she was no closer to formulating a theory on the meaning of life but at the end of all it at least she doen't work for Jews! She quite deservedly gets a bucket of vomit over her head. PART VII:DEATH - The sketch involves a man who has been sentenced to death for making gratuitous sexist jokes in a moving motiton picture. He is allowed to choose the manner of his own execution, and chooses to be chased over a cliff by a dozen topless women, wearing nothing but thongs and cycling helmets, running in slow motion. Next sketch has The Grim Reaper making a visitation on a dinner party to collect the diners, altho they seem to think he is a little deaf and has come to cut the hedge. They soon get the point when he explains that they have all been posioned by the salmon mousse. So of they go to Heaven which turns out to be the hotel from the earlier section of the movie, God has obviously been on a hotel management course with Howard Johnsons and allowed Disney to take up a franchise. Heaven here is Las Vegas dinner show, where it's Christmas Day every day. Sounds more like Hell! Final song "Its Christmas Day in H
eaven" THE END OF THE FILM - Finally, we get The Meaning of Life from Michael Palin, want to know what it is? Well its something about being nice to each other, not eating fat, reading a good book and living in peace and harmony. He then delivers a tirade on the sensationalistic nature of modern cinema. "Family Entertainemnt. Bollocks! What people want is filth" How true. And thats it, one of the funniest and most politically incorrect movies ever made. But it is all so silly and over the top tho that I don't think anybody could be really all that offended by it. The movie has an "18" certificate. For material likely to offend, see the op.
Like most people of my age the Monty Python team hold a special place in our laughter glands. The Python television programmes broke every convention of comedy at that time and the transfer to the movie world has given the team the chance to expand their sketches and produce a great film. The film is split into seven parts and each part looks at a different aspect of life, but from rather an unconventional angle. Part 1. “The Miracle of Birth” shows a very public birth followed by a visit of the stork to a terraced house somewhere in Yorkshire. This part includes the song “Every Sperm is Sacred” which is a satirical attack on the Catholic Church, but done in the best possible taste, with scenes reminiscent of the musical Oliver. Part 2. “Growth and Learning” looks at sex education in a boys public school, where of course the Headmaster and his wife give a practical demonstration of having sex for one of the lessons. Part 3. “Fighting Each Other” shows some nice gruesome shots of people dying in battles and war. Good humorous material. Now we have reached the middle of the film, so naturally there is an intermission for the “Find the Fish” competition. Part 4. “Middle Age” has a good old philosophical debate. Part 5. “Live Organ Transplants” will make you wonder why you ever agreed to carry a donor card. Part 6. “The Autumn Years” is definitely not to be watched whilst you are eating. Part 7. “Death” includes a visit from the Grim Reaper and the execution of a man who could choose his own means of death, and a very good choice it was as well. This all may sound very serious stuff, but it is very funny as every part has a very strange way of being presented that only the Monty Python team could write and perform. If you enjoy the quirky type humour of Monty Python
then you will love this film, it is excellent and I can recommend it to anyone with a strange sense of humour.
Monty Python are one of the classic comedy teams in this country's history. In the days of their TV series they brought ground-breaking humour, quickly gathering a cult following due to their status as one of the funniest shows of the time. Irreverent, witty, sometimes silly, but very, very funny. Even today their sketches are still quoted parrot-fashion up and down the country, to the delight of other fans and the bemusement of others :) "The Meaning Of Life" was the last film produced by the Monty Python team. Many fans prefer the first two films, and if you ask people which of the three was their favourite, this is very rarely the reply. However, I still think it deserves praise as an excellent offering. If it isn't quite as good as their other films, I think this is more a reflection of the incredible standard of the "Holy Grail" and "Life of Brian" - I actually think this remains far better than most Non-Python films of a similar genre. As always there are some wickedly memorable scenes ("Live Organ Donation" and "Find The Fish" spring to mind :) The film examines each of the major stages of life (Birth, Childhood etc) from a the unique Python perspective, in a search for the MEANING OF LIFE, which is "dramatically" revealed at the end :) A funny, funny film. Highly recommended!
This film is a must for all Monty Python fans worldwide. If you have not seen it go out and rent it now. Python humour at it’s best What can you say about this film that has not already been said by someone else. The following few words more than adequately sums up this excellent film. Side splittingly funny, outrageous, clever, memorable, pure genius. What more do I need to say. This is one of my all time favourite films along, of course, with Python’s other films. See the Python team at their very best. I watch it again and again. It is so funny.
Released in 1983, this is possibly the worst Monty Python film released, only the Now for something completely differnt is any worse (even though it is fantasically funny mind). While really only a collection of scetches not even linked together with a bit of cartoons, as previously favoured, this films is so fantastically funny it cannot be really compared to anything else other than Python films. Jumping from seemingly random subject to to another randomn subject, this film cannot fail but to be a great comedy, although nowhere as good as the other python films. The actual video quality shows its age, as does the soundtrack, but is perfectly adequete, and is the humour that makes this film so very good. Worth it!