Monty Python: Almost The Truth
This documentary chronicles the partial history of England’s most renowned comedy team, Monty Pythons Flying Circus. It comprises new interviews by the surviving cast members, as well as numerous archived footage of their television series, past interviews, and films together.
THE PAST: The Python story begins just after World War Two, where – individually – they share a communal history in: (1) Rationing. (2) They’re love for the radio performers, the Goons [Pete Sellers, Harry Secombe, and Spike Milligan]. (3) Conservatives lo-cals. (4) A need within them for anarchy. And (5) Some time to study. John Cleese and Graham Chapman studied at Oxford. Eric Idol, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin, studied at Cambridge. And Terry Gilliam (the American one) studied at Los Angeles.
THE SETUP: The English part of Python contingent met briefly during a review show at the Windmill Theater, in London, and then again a few years later at Edinburgh. But it was only when English television personality, David Frost, brought them all together in his telivision show, ‘the Frost Report’, that they started to get better acquainted.
Inadvertently, this started the then 'unnamed Pythons' to work on two somewhat different television shows. The first was the comedy show ‘At Last the 1948 Show’ for John and Graham, and the second was a children’s show ‘Do Not Adjust Your Set’ for Eric, Terry, and Michael. Please note, The American one, Gilliam, was first introduced to the group though John, who managed to get him a job as an animator on Eric’s, Terry’s and Michael’s show.
Eventually, once these two shows came to an end, the BBC then came a calling.
THE ORIGIN: At first, the Pythons did not really know what to do with themselves. They did not know what to be called. They did not know what the arbitrary structure of their fledgling show was going to be. Or even if there was going to be any guest stars, film stock, or music in it either.
However, gleaning inspiration from a new innovative approach spearheaded by Spike Milligan in his ‘Q’ series, plus the tone from Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore in ‘Not Only But Also’, they got their show onto the small screen, thanks to the head of BBC comedy at the time, Michael Mills.
THE SHOW: Granted, at first, Python did not receive that much praise from the public or the press, because nobody in England understood if the they were being funny or not. But over time their reputation and mad cap antics grew on people, and by the end of the second series, ‘Monty Python’ became a name to be reckoned with.
Though, by the end of the third series, John Cleese left, with the remaining Pythons only lasting one more series without him.
Next came the films; ‘The Holy Grail’, ‘The Life of Brian’, and ‘The Meaning of Life’, all movie projects where each Python learnt the art of toleration, innovation, frustration, controversy, and that individually, they needed to make their own way from then on in. In some way Graham Chapman was the first one that did just that – as he died in 1989.
Bless you Graham (the frustrated an aloof member) - plus John (the frustrated and tall one) - Eric (the managerial and musical one) - Michael (the nice and creative one) - Terry J (the Welsh and intellectual one) – as well Terry G (the American and arty one).
Now piss off.
Now there have been many documentaries about Monty Python in the past, all of which have presented certain key facts where their origins and their segways are concerned. So what is so different about this one, huh? Is 'Monty Python - Almost The Truth' the most... err.. truthful depiction of them all?
Well - kind of - and it is also an informative and well produced hours worth of amalgamated chronology that is a must for all Python fans - as well as funny enough for those who just want a laugh.
“OK” you say to yourself, “But if there isn't anything new in this documentary, then why is it worth watching?”. Hmmm? I suppose that you may have a point there my friend. But I do find that with each passing documentary made about Python, that on some level, some sort of universal truth leaks to the fore. For example, there origins, there idols, and there aspirations, are more clearly defined given the passage of time, as well as how each of the Pythons feel about each other.
Personally speaking, I find the best illustration of this would be in John Cleese. He just rags on about the other Pythons in such a straight forward and jovial way, that you cannot help but chuckle at every slur that slides out of his sodding mouth.
Also, the Pythons are becoming more clearly defined by their temperament and existing leanings, highlighting more succinctly with what their strengths were in the group, whilst subliminally commenting on who they are out of it.
Granted, I know that this must sound a bit vague in the scheme of things. Nevertheless, you have to remember, that at the time of this writing – 2011 – most the Pythons who are still alive are touching their seventies, and they are men of a different cultural age. Moreover, in my opinion, that is what is the most fascinating thing about them – as they are all privileged people who wanted to rebel against a system that benefited them more than your average Joe on the street.
To Python anarchy means comedy, and comedy means a way of life. I just thank the Lord Brian that he slapped this lunacy into them in the way that he has, or otherwise the world would be a much more unhappier place.
This was a good solid documentary – jovial in tone – and pleasant to watch. NI!
THE RATING: B+