Monty Python and the Holy Grail - 1975

Monty Python and the Holy Grail - Released March 14, 1975. Directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones

King Arthur transverses medieval Britain searching for knights who are worthy enough to people his round table back at Camelot... or does he? Later he will suddenly refuse to return to Camelot, proclaiming, "It is a silly place.” Why are the British police periodically on the screen investigating the sudden, violent death of "a famous historian", killed by a rampaging man on horseback dressed as a knight? What happened to the film animator (he suddenly dies on screen from heart attack? And why are the French in England speaking with "such outrageous accents"? It turns out only a few of these answers are relevant.

A surprisingly effective mish-mash of comedy and story-bridging animation pieces fills Monty Python and the Holy Grail; it's combined with nicely done art direction, costumes, ample mist and fog, and enough nicely staged scenes that it feels like there might be a "real" King Arthur movie hiding somewhere under the comedy.

The problem, movie-wise, is that the story barely gets rolling before it stops for another comedy skit (and after all that's why we're here). Then the Monty Python troupe comes to a halt so one actor can reel off his funny monologue (and they are very funny), the other actors are often perfectly still and sort of looking away because they're trying to make certain they don't draw any attention. That's awfully polite of them, but not very cinematic. On the other hand, could we follow the sometimes convoluted lines full of references, puns, and mounting absurdities that double-back on itself if we were simultaneously trying to visually keep track of screen movement? Perhaps not, and maybe basic rules of cinema just don't apply to comedy of this calibre. [Z]

Original Page January 3, 2017

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Letters from Hollywood: Inside the Private World of Classic American Movemaking

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