(United Kingdom/United States, 2012)
Cast: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, Cameron Diaz
Written by: Graham Chapman, David Sherlock (original text)
Directed by: Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson, Ben Timlett
This gleefully scattershot and raunchy 3D (!) visualization of the late Graham Chapman's autobiography will appeal to most as a reunion of his fellow Monty Python Flying Circus cohorts (well, most, but more about that later).
The faux-doc's overall indifferent reviews since the screening are surprising, given the lively spirit of the work, the variety of inventive animation styles (14 different studios), the arch first- person delivery of Chapman himself (who was working on an audiobook version of his 1980 autobiography before he died), and the whirlwind tour offered through the 60s, 70s, and 80s, when Western culture wasn't quite so accommodating of a personality as flamboyantly hedonistic as Chapman, who died too young at the age of 48 in 1989.
"A Liar's Biography" chronicles Chapman's difficult childhood in Leicester, Englan, his years studying medicine at Cambridge, his eventual acceptance and admission of his homosexuality, his decent into alcoholism, and his involvement with the legendary troupe Monty Python's Flying Circus.
Co-director Bill Jones is the son of Terry Jones--yes, that Terry Jones--both of whom were present for the screening and Q&A.
And yes, you read that right: Cameron Diaz is involved, although you'll have to buy a ticket to find out how...
The filmmakers were able to solicit the participation of all surviving Pythons, except Eric Idle, a fact not addressed in any of the publicity or during the post-screening Q&A (I was going to ask the question myself, but just assumed from the flurry of hands around me that someone else had thought of it first. No one did, apparently...). As of this writing, the subject remains unanswered, and odd, because of all of the ex-Pythons, Idle is the one most committed to keeping their legacy in the public eye, in virtually any medium (he didn't call it "The Greedy Bastard Tour" for nothing).
It made for a riotous communal evening after an exhausting week of Malickian tone poems and auteur-letdowns (I'm pointing at you, Mr. DePalma), affording those who possessed the sold-out ticket the unique opportunity to engage in a sing-a-long rendition of "Sit On My Face (And Tell Me That You Love Me"), something I've somehow managed to heretofore miss...
© Robert J. Lewis 2012