Just Above Sunset
May 2, 2004 - The Monty Python survivors speak out ...
Eric Idle: Religion (Christ and the Pythons)
I have sent a note to my
friend in Chicago that she should keep an eye out for something at the Shubert Theatre there in December - the stage adaptation
of the "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" film, in its pre-Broadway work-out-the-rough-spots run. As it is, Eric Idle of the Monty Python troop lives near me out here in Los Angeles and wrote last weekend
about his other legendary film, “The Life of Brian,” that was re-released Friday (April 30) - and of course he
comments on Mel Gibson’s Jesus film, wishing Mel Brooks had made it, not the odd Gibson fellow.
I was crucified once and frankly I don't recommend it. It's a scary experience, especially when you find John Cleese next to you, and there's that odd Graham Chapman smoking a pipe, and Terry Gilliam is complaining about the shot and Michael Palin is nattering away to everyone in particular.
Idle goes on to explain
that even though he was singing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" that there was something a bit chilling about turning
up first thing in the morning and finding a cross with your name on it.
Now, thanks to Mel Gibson and his holy snuff film, you're going to get a chance to see the second
coming of "Life of Brian," a movie that was made during the lifetime of three popes.
(Two died and two were elected during the eight weeks of location shooting.) I haven't seen Mel's film "The Passion
of the Christ" — I am a lapsed anti-Catholic — but I gather that Mel doesn't handle the comedy too well, and he
seems to totally ignore the singing opportunities of the crucifixion altogether.
And Idle gives more detail of how this Grail of the Pythons movie came about – which is, of course, idle detail. (Sorry.)
Brian began life as a bad joke at the opening of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" in New York. When asked what our next movie would be I ad-libbed glibly "Jesus Christ, Lust for Glory." This struck a chord in the collective unconscious of the Pythons. It was such a naughty idea to even contemplate a comedy about religion that it was virtually irresistible. For a start there was a totally clean palette. No one had done any biblical gags since the Medieval Mystery Plays. Secondly we had all been dragged up in British schools with compulsory attendance in the Church of England and had been subjected to the peculiar tedium and hypocrisy of that church, founded by an adulterous king to escape a tedious wife. This would be a wonderful way to get back at our tormentors.
So, is Idle anti-religion?
Now I have nothing against Jesus Christ; what he says is actually great: forgiveness, love one
another, peace on Earth, turn the other cheek — all are excellent principles, and if only more Christians would practice
them the world wouldn't be in such a mess today. Our current crusaders, with
their anxiety to strike the other cheek, first seem to be closer in philosophy to Reg the Revolutionary: "What Christ fails
to realize is it is the Meek that are the problem." Oddly enough, although almost all religious bodies came out and attacked
the movie, thereby ensuring it was a hit, the Communists and Lefty Revolutionaries left us alone, although the French did
complain a lot about our movie not being blasphemous. But then they are Catholics.
Well, the whole item here
is cute in this way. Some won’t see it as cute at all.
Terry Jones: The Semantics of War
Back on November 9th of
last year I reported that according to a story in Reuters - actually reported in a lot of places - my local newspaper, the Los Angeles Times,
had ordered its reporters to stop describing anti-American forces in Iraq as "resistance fighters," saying the term romanticizes
them and evokes World War II-era heroism.
One of the chief problems with the current exciting adventure in Iraq is that no one can agree
on what to call anyone else.
Well, we do not want to
seem like we’re doing this all alone – because even if the Spanish and a few others have bailed out, the Brits
are still with us, not to mention the folks from Fiji and Tonga. It’s not
Then there's the problem of what the Americans are going to call the Iraqis - especially the ones
that they kill. You can call people who are defending their own homes from rockets
and missiles launched from helicopters and tanks "fanatics and terrorists" only for so long.
Eventually even newspaper readers will smell a rat.
Ah yes, well, these things
happen, and have to be… packaged? Yes, carefully.
Describing the recent attack on Najaf, the New York Times happily hit upon the word "militiamen". This has the advantage of being a bit vague (nobody really knows what a "militiaman" looks like or does), while at the same time sounding like the sort of foreigners any responsible government ought to kill on sight.
No. It’s just vague. But whatever, Jones points to even thornier semantic problems in the last few days, and coming up soon in June.
For example, there's the "handover of power" that's due to take place on June 30. Since no actual "power" is going to be handed over, the coalition chaps have had to find a less conclusive
phrase. They now talk about the handover of "sovereignty", which is a suitably
elastic notion. And besides, handing over a "notion" is a damn sight easier than
handing over anything concrete.
Well, call it “forceful negotiation.” And you might click on the link to see what Jones has to say about the words used by the folks in the Oval
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