Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Now revered as one of the most wholly original comedies to come to film yet, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" is a spoof, a satire, and the source of most self-referential comedies to come. The film would certainly inspire Mel Brooks' movies and even thrillers like the chilling "Funny Games".
Yet the movie is equally loved and hated. Those that love it, find the humor tickling and all the gags hilarious—those who don't, find the incessant need to draw scenes out too trying. In many respects the humor of the repeated phrase and gag wasn't created in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (yesterday I saw "To Be or Not To Be" which featured some of this style of humor and that was made in 1942); but it certainly was perfected with this film. The quirks may seem like too much: a knight battles a king until his limbs are severed, leaving only the trunk of the man; a young man of some royalty wishes to be in a musical but is constantly prevented from singing by his father; and the same shot of a knight charging a castle recurs several times. If you don't like the humor, you will be uncomfortable for an hour and a half.
But if you do, prepare yourself for a delight.
"Monty Python and the Holy Grail" is a film that is set during the middle ages. Contrary to what some critics might think, there obviously was a good deal of research that went into the film, evident in sly gestures and quick lines...it's there, underneath all the madness.
After the movie begins...well, after the real movie begins, we are set in a field where a man chases another man, clapping two coconuts together to mimic the sound of a horse running. This is King Arthur and Patsy, they are summoning guards to travel to Camelot. They are met by a stubborn and questioning guard, who picks apart the logic of a man, pretending to ride a horse followed by an assistant making horse noises with coconuts. He should have left the logic alone. Even though when you think about what's happening in the film (it occurs to you that there is deep madness behind the camera), there is a great intelligence and, yes, logic to "Monty Python and the Holy Grail". Every question is there for a reason, everything not explained is purposeful. Some of the film may feel like an obscene gesture to the viewer and "typical" audiences, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" is completely original and unashamedly true to itself—you should expect nothing more.
King Arthur continues on his journey, meeting several odd characters, finally making it with a team to Camelot. The castle isn't all what it was built up to be...the men move on. Then God gives them a command: find the Holy Grail.
The quest for the Holy Grail begins...and it's nothing like Indiana Jones.
The movie pokes fun at itself, crosses all boundaries, and sticks to no real narrative. It jumps and skips here and there, blurring the lines between documentary, drama, comedy, and surrealist.
Indeed, you should not get caught up on the semantics...you only be disappointed.
Much of the film seems pointless and it quite possibly could be. It depends on what you think the film is trying to accomplish. It is supposed to be a commentary? a parable? or just mindless? I think it might be somewhere in the middle of all this; but I conclude that "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" is present mainly to entertain and at that, it is successful.
The troupe is back and they each play many, many roles. Each one is brilliant in their own way; but maybe the most interesting fact is the acting and directing by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones. On screen, Jones is certainly funnier; but Gilliam has proved himself a great director. They supposedly quarreled non-stop while the movie was being made—whatever happened still made a great film.
The film stinks heavily of anti-Catholicism, to many it might be offensive.
Still, considering the time it was made, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" remains ruthlessly funny, endearingly original, and unapologetically confusing.
Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones