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Showing posts with label James Rogan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label James Rogan. Show all posts

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Sheffield - God's own City ~ Michael Palin at The Crucible

This is a review of Monty Python : The Meaning of Live (2014)

More views of or before Cambridge Film Festival 2015 (3 to 13 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

17 June

This is a review of a special screening of Monty Python : The Meaning of Live (2014) at Sheffield Documentary Festival, at The Crucible Theatre (@crucibletheatre), on Wednesday 10 June at 6.30 p.m., followed by a Q&A (hosted by Josie Long (@JosieLong)) with Holly Gilliam, James Rogan and Michael Palin

Josie Long and Michael Palin

Holly Gilliam’s (Terry Gilliam’s daughter’s) impulse to get a camera into the script-reading for Monty Python (Almost) Live was absolutely right, and, as we heard, that was the impetus for this film itself documenting a show that was largely and pragmatically put on to meet the legal costs of the members of Monty Python being sued over some rights issue* (it sounded as though they might have been badly advised about defending the court action, maybe by Cleese’s classic barrister Archie Leach, from A Fish Called Wanda (1988) ?).

The approach gave us all that we wanted, including :

* A sense, as the title turned out to imply, of Python on stage, ranging from the celebrated Amnesty International gigs to Monty Python Live at The Hollywood Bowl (1982) (a title that, we learnt, was meant to stir feelings of the incongruous)

* The related interactions and tensions in and between those tallied both by One Down, Five to Go, and in Graham Chapman’s lifetime (to which Python’s memory the film was dedicated)

* The thrills and spills of the ten-night run at that venue that was allegedly so worthless, as The Millennium Dome, that HM Government disposed of it for a pound

* Thoughts about what comedy is and how it works, from Eric Idle seeing it as algebra (not an art), and needing to change one of the terms to get a laugh, to John Cleese’s having had to fight back, over decades, what sounded like rage that people laughed before he had done anything that he thought merited it**

* Michael Palin, dressed as a smart Sheffield woman of his mother’s generation for the ad hoc purpose of a filler (to comply with the limitations of ‘the watershed’ in public-service broadcasting, which it then proceeded to ridicule) : Eric Idle’s script, as interpreted by Palin and creatively imagined by improvisation, clarifying that when she said that she did not have one, she meant a television (not a cunt), or vice versa

* Confirmation that it had been, as it always seemed, Eric Idle’s creation (though directed by Terry Gilliam)

* Laughter again, deep and liberating, at the excerpts from Monty Python (Almost) Live and its staging :

** The candour before, after and during the O2 show (including feigned and real irritation at being filmed)

** The archive material from the show, from live performance and elsewhere : good choice, well placed

** The best of what was recorded during the 10-night show and its rehearsal, including seeing it change, and hearing in the film, and in the Q&A about corpsing / timing and their place in creating something fresh

** On this latter point, the very real pleasure of seeing Palin and Cleese in operation together

Holly Gilliam, James Rogan, Josie Long, and Michael Palin

As to the Q&A, one enthusiast closed the proceedings by declaring The Fish-Slapping Dance, which Palin said had been submitted for a comedy version of Eurovision (never repeated ?), the best thing that the Pythons had done : a few seconds, and the fifteen-foot fall into the dock below, had been worth it ! (Yes, it always brings a laugh, but hardly the best thing that they did ?) This enthusiast asked about Palin’s not only knowing his own part, but everyone else’s : yes, he had learnt it early on to feel comfortable with it, and then able to elaborate variations on it.

To that impulse to get a camera to document what happened, much is owed, in this skilful snapshot of the surviving Pythons by Roger Graef (who, sadly, did not attend, because he felt unwell) and James Rogan :

Seen at Sheffield : Doc/Fest films with full reviews


* Having established the point, by comment from a Python or three, the film wisely moved on : we did not feel that we needed to know more.

** Cleese also thought that sketches such as The Dead Parrot had not always been appreciated in the t.v. series, but had acquired a popularity through (recordings of) the live versions / iterations :

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)