Holy Flying Circus (2011)
Rather than tell the story of the making of Life of Brian (1979), this biopic is the story behind the making of the televised debate that followed. To underscore the absurdity of the Pythons having to defend themselves against charges of blasphemy, this biopic is filmed in their surreal style of humour, complete with Gilliamesque animations, silly walks and men dressed in drag. It is an inspired decision.
That this would not be your typical biopic is apparent from the start, when Jesus Christ informs the audience that most of what follows is fictitious. He then bends over, points his bum towards Eric Idle and farts in his general direction. Nevertheless, a lot of this biopic is actually based on fact. There were worldwide protests against cinemas screening Life of Brian, the Pythons were advised to make out their wills, and scenes of the televised debate are copied virtually word for word.
As the team’s representatives on that show, the characters of John Cleese and Michael Palin are given due prominence. Yet all of Python’s counterparts get a chance to strut their stuff, none more so than Rufus Jones as Terry Jones as Michael Palin’s wife. It’s only when the biopic doesn’t focus on the Pythons that it succumbs to the sort of undergraduate humour complained about by the bishops.
Fortunately, like the scatological humour of 'Monty Python’s Flying Circus', the comedy in this biopic is more hit than miss.
Despite no less an authority than Jesus Christ assuring us that most of Holy Flying Circus is untrue, amazingly quite a lot of the events depicted actually occurred.
No scene recreations, as the film begins after Life of Brian has been completed.