The Godfather’s Peer: The Life of Brian
I believe that Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather is the most perfect film. Everything about The Godfather is to my mind exquisite. It is both personal and epic in scope. It has nothing but brilliant acting performances throughout, especially that of Al Pacino.
I had a suspicion that The Godfather was special after the first scene in the Don’s home office. That suspicion was confirmed during Michael Corleone’s sit down with Sollozzo and McCluskey. This film left me with a thrill going up my leg (word to Chris Matthews). I get that feeling every single time I watch this film – it never ever goes away.
I first saw The Godfather when I was 15 years old and for over a decade I haven’t seen anything like it or anything that has come close to giving me that thrill, that awe-inspiring feeling that I will unlikely forget.
That was until I watched The Life of Brian.
The Life of Brian is a truly outstanding film and it is a film that I have been unable to stop thinking about for two months. I compare it to The Godfather for one simple reason, it is a pure joy to watch and that feeling that you are watching something pure hasn’t dissolved in my six views of the movie.
Brian ultimately has a harder job than Coppola’s classic to succeed simply because it is a comedy. Comedy is a hard genre to get right because everyone’s taste in comedy is a uniquely personal thing.
But Brian is a brilliantly funny, thoughtful and surprisingly epic film. There is also stuff in this film that is just jaw droppingly genius but difficult to fathom.
There is a section in this movie where Graham Chapman’s Brian is being chased by Centurions after he has escaped from Palin’s Pilot. Brian is chased to the top of the exceedingly tall building where he has no choice but to jump to his death. Out of nowhere an alien spaceship cushions his fall, while it is itself being chased.
There is something mad about this bit and although I didn’t laugh during the first few showing I noticed that I had a silly grin on my face (I was told in fact). I consider myself to be a creative person but not in a million years would I think of that scene and even if I did I wouldn’t have the balls to include it in the film.
I feel that this scene perfectly encapsulates the wonder of The Life of Brian. Barmy but brilliant.
That’s not to say that the alien scene is the crème-de-la-crème of this film, it is not. It’s not even close in fact.
Life of Brian is jam packed with belly achingly funny moments and is as quotable as anything movie I have ever seen – including The Godfather. From the ‘big nose’ scene, to the public stoning – from the confusion about the name of the rebel movement (People’s front of Judea?), Bigus Dickus and the crucifixion walk – this film brings the funny. It is actually scary to think about how many near classic comedy moments there are in this one film.
It is interesting because all of the scenes feel like improvised sketches yet the film works very well as a coherent story. Each scene shows the Python at their best, taking a situation to its extreme silliness without compromising the film (yes, I’m talking about the same film with aliens).
I was also surprised about how quickly I got used to the Pythons playing multiple characters. Unlike other films I have seen this done, it doesn’t pull you out of the movie – you rarely notice it. It’s actually important to state how very well acted this film is. Every single character from almost every Python is well played (I just didn’t love Jone’s Mother character). Graham does a fantastic job anchoring the whole film as Brian, the voice of reason. Idle is underused in my opinion but is wonderful whenever he appears. Cleese would have stolen the show with his numerous character, best of all the Centurion, if it wasn’t for Palin’s masterful display. And I mean every single one of Palin’s characters in this film are masterful – including the ex-Leper. Palin is a genius.
I really don’t want to talk about religion because I think that subject matter is a distraction that takes away a lot of the good about this film – so let me get back to the comparisons with The Godfather.
Like 1972 classic, I fell head over heels in love with The Life of Brian from just one sitting. Unlike Inception, The Life of Brian seems to get better after each watch. I am extremely proud that this is a British film. It has shown me that you really don’t need an extraordinary amount of money to make something epic and grand and thoughtful and everlasting – you just need ambition and imagination. And let’s not kid ourselves, you need a god given talent because these six men were/are special.
Life of Brian is now my second favourite film of all time. I still don’t think it is as good as The Godfather but it certainly deserves to be mentioned in the same breathe and in my life that is a mind blowing achievement.
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