That rarest of rare treasures, Monty Python’s Life of Brian is both achingly funny and seriously satirical without ever allowing one to overbalance the other. There is not a single joke, sight gag or one-liner that will not forever burn itself into the viewer’s memory as being just as funny as it is possible to be, but, extraordinarily, almost every line and every indestructibly hilarious scene also serves a dual purpose, making this one of the most consistently sustained film satires ever made. Like all great satire, the Pythons not only attack and vilify their targets (the bigotry and hypocrisy of organised religion and politics) supremely well, they also propose an alternative: be an individual, think for yourself, don’t be led by others. “You’ve all got to work it out for yourselves”, cries Brian in a key moment. “Yes, we’ve all got to work it our for ourselves”, the crowd reply en masse, “Tell us more”. Two thousand years later, in a world still blighted by religious zealots, Brian’s is still a lone voice crying in the wilderness.
Aside from being a neat spoof on the Hollywood epic, it’s also almost incidentally one of the most realistic on-screen depictions of the ancient world–instead of treating their characters as posturing historical stereotypes, the Pythons realised what no sword ‘n’ sandal epic ever has: that people are all the same, no matter what period of history they live in. People always have and always will bicker, lie, cheat, swear, conceal cowardice with bravado (like Reg, leader of the People’s Front of Judea), abuse power (like Pontius Pilate), blindly follow the latest fads and giggle at silly things (“Biggus Dickus”). In the end, Life of Brian teaches us that the only way for a despairing individual to cope in a world of idiocy and hypocrisy is to always look on the bright side of life. —Mark Walker
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This item: Monty Python's Life of Brian - The Immaculate Edition [Blu-ray] [Region Free]£5.97