Monty Python delivers a scathing, anarchic satire of both religion and Hollywood's depiction of all things biblical with their second film. The setting is Judea 33 A.D, a time of poverty and chaos, with no shortage of messiahs, followers willing to believe in them, and exasperated Romans trying to impose some order. At the centre of it all is Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman), a reluctant would-be messiah who rises to prominence as a result of a series of absurd and truly hilarious circumstances providing ample opportunity for the entire ensemble (John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and Chapman) to shine in multiple roles as they mock everyone and everything from ex-lepers, Pontius Pilate, and the art of haggling to crazy prophets, Roman centurions, and crucifixion.
For more about Monty Python's Life of Brian and the Monty Python's Life of Brian Blu-ray release, see Monty Python's Life of Brian Blu-ray Review published by Sir Terrence on March 23, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
What happens when you put a pool of talented, irreverent actors together with a script that makes fun of the institution of religion? You get Monty Pythons Life of Brian. Never mind that some cities banned the showing of this movie. Never mind that the religious community protested at some theaters it was shown. Never mind the Catholic Church called the film "blasphemous" based on the script alone. This movie is funny, entertaining, irreverent, well crafted, and a classic comedy to be remembered long after I have left this planet.
Life of Brian almost did not make it to the big screen. EMI initially agreed to fund this production. However as the cast and crew were preparing to leave for on location shooting, an EMI executive read the script, and pulled the plug on the funding at the last moment. Luckily George Harrison (of the Beatles) stepped in, created the production company Handmade Films, and funded the film production at the tune of $3 million dollars. It turns out that Harrison was a big fan of the Pythons, and loved the script. It is lucky for us he had more foresight than the folks at EMI at the time as Life of Brian has been voted as one of the best comedies of all time. This reviewer can plainly see why.
Are there any Women here?
Brian Cohen begins his life in a stable just a few doors down from the birthplace of Jesus. Initially confused, three wise men come to pay homage to the King of the Jews and are forced to content with Brian's nagging mother Mandy. When they discover their mistake, the leave quickly to find the stable where Jesus is located. As Brian grew up, he developed a healthy dislike of the Roman Empire because of their occupation of Judea. He later finds out that is father is a Roman Centurion, Naughtius Miximus who raped his mother apparently at her pleasure.
While attending the infamous Sermon on the Mount, Brian's eyes capture an attractive female Judith, for which he develops an infatuation with. His hatred for the Romans leads him to join a separatist group called the People's Front of Judea, a group assembled to fight the Romans. This group spends more time fighting each other, than the Romans. Brian is given his first assignment with the group, to scrawl graffiti on the walls of the governor's palace. While doing his assigned task, Brian is busted by a Centurion, who instead of arresting Brian becomes irritated at Brian's terrible Latin Grammar. As punishment he orders Brian to write Romani ite domum (translated into Romans, go home) 100 times on the wall. At the change of shift at daybreak, Brian is again busted, but escapes with the help of Judith.
When the People's Front of Judea plots a kidnapping, Brian agrees to participate. The mission however fails due to a clash with another separatist group. Brian is once again forced on the run, but is captured and summoned to appear before Pontius Pilate. Through a series of humorous blunders, Brian escapes again and finds himself in a line up of fake mystics and prophets in a plaza who harass the crowd as it passes. To evade capture, Brian blends into this group and begins to babble religious nonsense as the others were doing, and attracts a small crowd in the process. With his babbling mistaken as inspired words, Brian much to his dismay develops a entourage which follows him everywhere he goes, holding to every word he says as if it was heaven inspired.
Brian eventually wanders back to the headquarters of the PFJ where is discovers that people, looking for enlightenment and healing have gathered. Brian attempts once again to escape the crowd, but this time is captured and sentenced to death by crucifixion. . This angers his crowd of followers, and in an attempt to quell the chaotic atmosphere, Pilate orders Brian released. At that point everyone begins to proclaim they are Brian, and eventually the wrong man is released. This is the Life of Brian.
Monty Pythons Life of Brian comes to Bluray in the form of a 1080p/AVC transfer that is by far the best I have seen this movie look. From what I can gather, the original elements were very grainy, so Sony sent it to Dts Digital Image (formerly Lowrey digital image) for a clean up job, and they did a fantastic job, but not without some slight problems that effected picture stability. When compared with the DVD releases of this movie, the colors on this Bluray release are more vibrant, black levels are stronger, more stable, and the contrast is excellent. Detail is astonishing, giving the picture a three dimensional look, the edges of images are sharp and clear, and the overall picture is way less noisy. Now here is the bad. Skin tones are a bit reddish, sometimes black crush rears its ugly head, there is some artifacting right at the beginning of the movie, and some halos around images on occasion. In saying all of this, Life of Brian looks so much better than all of the previous releases it's not funny. Good job Sony!
Sony has done some great things with the picture quality on this release, but the sound still suffers from the same problem as previous releases. Sony has offered two lossless choices here, a Dolby TrueHD track, and a PCM track as well. I could hear no difference between the two, and didn't expect to. The sound quality of the soundtrack is typical of that era. It sounds thin, inconsistent, occasionally muffled, sometimes harsh, and the instruments in the score have had the natural timbre sucked out of them. On occasion the dialog can sound hot and harsh, the music sounds constricted, bass limited, and imaging is confined to the frontal soundstage as the surrounds are barely used. To be fair there is some moments the soundtrack does not sound half bad. This soundtrack does sound way better than all of the previous releases of this movie. The fact is the soundtrack is the weakest part of this movie, but it has never been the strong point of any of the previous releases either. I commend Sony for releasing the soundtrack with a lossless audio, as we now hear this soundtrack with much more fidelity than we ever have.
The DVD and this Bluray release contain identical extra features, but lack the featurette length documentary The Pythons included on the Criterion Collection DVD. However there is enough here to give you a background not only on just the Pythons themselves, but the production of Life of Brian as well. There are two separate commentaries on this disc. The first commentary features Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, and Eric Idle, the second with >b>John Cleese and Michael Paulin. These commentaries would have been much better if all parties had been combined into one commentary, but as it is, the former is much more entertaining than the latter. We also get an Audio Recording of an early Screenplay and Story-boards (111 minutes), and the featurette The Story of Brian (60 minutes), Deleted scenes (13 minutes), Radio Spots (3 minutes), a Photo Gallery, and last but not least a HD trailer of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, as well as a video montage of various Sony titles.
I sat down to watch this movie and right from the start was so entertained, and laughed so hard I forgot to take any notes. I must caution you, this movie is to be watch AFTER sending the young ones to bed because the language is strong, and there is some nudity. You also have to pay close attention to the dialog, as the accents of the actors are very strong. I must admit, I haven't laughed this hard since watching Borat in the theater. This movie is one of the best comedies I have ever watched, and the ensemble cast truly excellent. This movie has no weaknesses as the script is well written, the concept unique, and the execution of the overall package cannot be faulted. Do not walk but run to the video store and buy this movie, you will be assured an evening of gut busting laughter.