Thursday, February 07, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman (2012) **

R, 85 min.
Directors: Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson, Ben Timlett
Writers: Graham Chapman (book “A Liar’s Autobiography: Volume VI”), David Sherlock (book “A Liar’s Autobiography: Volume VI”)
Narrator: Graham Chapman
Voices: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Carol Cleveland, Philip Bulcock, Cameron Diaz

A member of the famous British sketch comedy group Monty Python, Graham Chapman died of throat cancer in 1989. Three years before he died he wrote an autobiography with his life partner, David Sherlock, titled “A Liar’s Autobiography: Volume VI”. Many of the facts in the book were understandably questionable. Chapman also recorded the audio book before his death. This is how in 2012 we can have a new documentary based on the book narrated by the long dead comedian.

Like anything that is related to Monty Python, “A Liar’s Autobiography” is one of the more unique documentaries you’ll ever see. Instead of compiling footage of talking heads expounding on Chapman’s brilliance edited around still photos and classic Monty Python clips, the directors of this film have animated several of the anecdotes found in Chapman’s book with Chapman’s reading of the book acting as narration and most of the Python crew providing other voices and Cameron Diaz providing the voice of Sigmund Freud.

Each anecdote is animated in a different style, including a new version of Chapman’s most famous Python song “Sit on My Face”. It is a creative way to tell a creative autobiography. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it works as well for audiences as it works for Chapman. What I mean by that it that it’s very much in the spirit of Chapman. It’s odd and weird and original, but it isn’t really all that funny or entertaining. I’m not sure it should be those two things, but it feels like it should. Mostly, it’s interesting. Nothing is a bigger insult to something that should be funny and entertaining than to call it “interesting.”

While the animation is fitting and interesting to watch, I think it says something about the film’s success, or lack thereof that its best part is during the closing credits when the filmmakers show us John Cleese’s actual eulogy of Chapman at his memorial service from 1989. Cleese and Chapman co-wrote Python’s Dead Parrot sketch together, and Cleese uses it well in the eulogy.

WARNING! The clip below contains explicit language.

No comments: