The first time I saw it was as a kid on cable in parts, and it ruined MM for me for quite some time. Years later in college I finally gave it another go and saw what Miller was trying to get at and realized that he kind of gave up after the death of his creative partner. This combined with a bigger scale weakens the film and it never quite gets off the ground. That said there is some good stuff in there, and it remains watchable every so often.
This ties in partially to some of what I've been watching.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Indescribably, gleefully obliterating the fourth and all other walls. The fresh energy displayed here is the troupe at their finest, and I've always felt the low budget only increases the realism of the locale. The Criterion LD is a joy, though Sony's BD is a revelation.
Life of Brian
The greatest "comedy" ever mounted, next to Dr. Strangelove. It is equally funny for the mind, and makes you laugh so hard your brain hurts. Intertwined is true societal criticism that is both applicable and pointed. It is a shame that this picture had such a terrible time getting released and distributed, as the point is to ridicule and make fun of the idiotic ways people can take religion--and never ever attacking Christ, his teachings or the Bible itself. Additionally the barbs at the terrible Biblical epic style are hysterical. Criterion's LD and DVD port have color not in the Sony remaster, which despite having more detail is DNR'd a bit and washed out looking. Best audio is the Dolby Stereo on the LD. Sony let the BD go OOP which is damn frustrating.
Masterpiece. Brilliant in every way. Hysterical. Magical. If only everybody here could agree with the UK that it is the Python's finest achievement.
Meaning of Life
Beyond frustrating, rushed, slipshod, annoying at many times, terribly unfunny in many places. This is a mess of a picture that ultimately NEVER works because they rushed into production without a break, creative recharge, or even decent material. The sketches never flow, they merely bang into one another, and what should be hysterical (Sex education etc) fails to spark. Other bits are painfully unfunny ("Every sperm"), pointless (all the couple on vacation bits), and downright disgusting (Creosote. Good grief.). It drags on so badly that one wishes the "Get on with it!" extras could have been reassembled to yell for the remainder of the feature. A criminal waste, made only worse by a mindbogglingly long Gilliam "short" that precedes the film for almost 20 minutes!
An extremely over-generous 2 balls out of 4. Primarily for the liver donor sketch. Uni's BD is at least cheap enough and the new hour long discussion with the five remaining Pythons is better than the film itself.
Now I've begun watching Gilliam pictures, something which I haven't done very much of due to his trademark lack of narrative focus.
Something of a favorite of mine, as it was my mother's who first showed it to me many years ago. The style, period setting, and diseased Middle Ages on a low budget is done to perfection! This is almost like Grail II but much more serious and with a very dark bent throughout. Michael Palin is wonderful in the lead, but other than the atmosphere and funny bits here and there the film begins to drag because the narrative never really develops.
3 balls out of 4, and I like the movie far more than I should. Needs a BD with the original mono.
Lovely, wonderful fantasy that works only if you can subdue any desire for narrative focus. This are never quite explained, they just seem to happen. Since I'm seeing this for the first time I equated it more with the way a child would react to things that they may not understand. This childlike reasoning worked for me until the ending which I felt was not only inadequate, abrupt and to be honest rather pissed me off.
Not to mention that the Harry Potter parallels that keep popping up make me again lament that WB didn't embrace Gilliam's madness as JK Rowling wanted. They would have at least been interesting and dangerous films then.
The Criterion LD is one of the finest CLV titles I've ever seen. The new restored transfers seem to lose a lot of the old colors.
3.5 balls out of 4, I guess...it's rather hard to say.
If ever there was a picture that needed to be seen multiple times. The impact only dawns on you through multiple viewings. The societal commentary is spot-on, I enjoy the Orwellian tones, the performances are spot-on..but yet it just never seems to work as fully as it should. To me the comedic and almost cartoon-ish elements continually threaten to overwhelm the inherent evil of the totalitarian government and prevent the haunting climax from reaching its full potential. It's a great experience in its uncut form, a good movie that sadly influenced far too many people into making their films look cartoony, but again Gilliam's secondary narrative harms the picture immeasurably.
4 balls out of 4. The Criterion LD box is one of the great video releases of all time in terms of its massive scope. The presentation is also outstanding for the format.