Monty Python’s Meaning Of Life, 1983
Surreal, bizarre, call it what you will, but only Monty Python could get away with it, yes it’s the fourth of the Monty Python films The Meaning Of Life. Tackling the subject of life in true Python style.
However unlike the previous two films: Life Of Brian and The Holy Grail which had a coherent plot Meaning Of Life returned to the comedy sketch format of the television series.
The film is divided into chapters, though the chapters themselves often contain several more-or-less unconnected sketches.
Whilst some people have found the film difficult to follow if the sketches are taken just as sketches and you do not try to relate them to the title the film is feature length nonsense, i.e. Python at their best.
The film is divided into eight chapters preceded by an introductory film directed by Terry Gilliam entitled:
The Crimson Permanent Assurance.
In this short introduction elderly office clerks rebel against their emotionlessly efficient, yuppie corporate masters at ‘The Permanent Assurance Company’.
They commandeer their building, and turn it into a pirate ship, raiding financial districts in numerous big cities, before falling off the edge of the world.
The film properly opens with the human faces of the six Pythons placed on the bodies of fish who are swimming aimlessly in a tank at a restaurant.
Upon seeing that one of their fellow fish is being served to a customer they begin to engage in a brief philosophical conversation.
This is immediately cut short by the abrupt intrusion of the title sequence, including the film’s theme song, sung by Eric Idle putting on a French accent. a
Then we get down to the chapters which are far too complicated to break down for a posting, so here’s a brief rundown.
Part I: “The Miracle Of Birth”, comes in two parts. The first is an absurd woman in labour sketch, the second part is subtitled “The Third World”, is set in Sheffield, Yorkshire. It depicts a Roman Catholic couple (Palin and Jones), who can no longer afford to feed their many children.
Part II:” Growth And Learning” features a group of public schoolboys attending an Anglican church service.
Part III: “Fighting Each Other”, a World War I officer (Jones) attempting to rally his men to find cover during an attack is hindered by their insistence on celebrating his birthday, complete with presents and cake.
“The Middle Of The Film” is introduced by Gilliam dressed as a black man and Chapman in drag. This leads to a surreal sketch called “Find The Fish”
Part IV: “Middle Age” features a middle-aged American couple (Idle as the wife and Palin as the husband) taking a vacation to a bizarre resort, where they are greeted by M’Lady Joeline (Gilliam dressed in drag) and are shown to an authentic medieval dungeon with Hawaiian music.
Part V: “Live Organ Transplants”, two paramedics (Chapman and Cleese) arrive at the doorstep of a card-carrying organ donor, Mr. Brown (Gilliam), to claim his liver. Still being alive, he initially refuses. Not to be deterred, the paramedics burst through the door and brutally disembowel him, removing the organ “under condition of death”.
Part VI: “The Autumn Years”, is also split into two stages. The first is introduced with Eric Idle as a Noel Coward-esque fop performing the song “Isn’t It Awfully Nice to Have a Penis?”. Following this, Mr. Creosote, an impossibly fat man (Jones), waddles into a decorous restaurant, swears at the French waiter (Cleese), and vomits copiously on himself, the menu, a cleaning woman, and into buckets if available.
Part VII:” Death” opens with a funeral setup.
“The End Of The Film”, in which the female character from “The Middle of the Film” (Palin) concludes the matter by reading out the “meaning of life” (introducing it by saying “It’s nothing very special”):
Written By: Monty Python
Produced By: John Goldstone
Directed By: Terry Jones
Release Date: 31st March 1983