MONTY PYTHON’S THE MEANING OF LIFE (1983) – Food for thought

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The following is my entry in the Food in Film Blogathon, being co-hosted by the blogs Speakeasy and Silver Screenings from Nov. 3-5, 2017. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ takes on edibles as presented in movies!

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(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)

Despite its lofty title, Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life never gets around to an exact definition of life’s purpose. However, based on the evidence presented here by the famed British comedy troupe, much of life’s meaning can be extracted from food, which certainly makes numerous appearances in the movie.

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After “The Crimson Permanent Assurance” (Terry Gilliam’s elaborate short-subject opening), the movie-proper begins with a sextet of fish (the Pythons, of course) exchanging morning pleasantries while ensconced in a restaurant-based aquarium. One of the fish looks out and shrilly notes that Howard, one of their former fishmates, is now being served to a customer. On that note, the fish get all philosophical: “Makes you think, dunnit?” – “Yeah, I mean what’s it all about?” On cue, the movie’s opening titles and theme promise that they’ll provide us with an answer. Don’t hold your gills.

A later sketch, “Fighting Each Other,” centers on a World War I officer named Biggs (Terry Jones) quietly but firmly ordering his troops to find cover during an attack. Sentimental group that they are, soldier Blackitt (Eric Idle), on behalf of the troops, gives Biggs a goodbye speech, a card, and parting gifts of a grandfather clock, a Swiss watch, and a monetary check.

When Biggs finally tells the troops that enough is enough and they need to run for cover, they all get quiet and turn to Blackitt. “You shouldn’t have said that, sir,” says soldier Spadger (Michael Palin) to Biggs. “You’ve hurt his feelings now.” The rest of the men grumble, and one of them declares, “Let’s not give him the cake!”

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Biggs says he doesn’t need a cake, but Spadger elaborates on how much effort Blackitt put into the cake — “I mean, you try to get butter to melt at fifteen below zero!” With that, Biggs agrees that he should honor Blackitt’s work, cheerily offering slices to his ever-diminishing (due to assassination) troops.

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Fish make their next appearance in the film’s mid-section, appropriately titled “The Middle of the Film.” A stately matron (Michael Palin!) invites the movie’s audience to join in the next segment, “Find the Fish.” A couple of indescribably strange characters (Graham Chapman and Terry Jones) recite a poem about a loyal fish — “…and it went wherever I did go!” — as Dr. Seuss-like creatures — the fish presumably among them — cross the screen, and audience members shout their guesses as to where the fish is hiding.

The fishy sextet from the film’s intro return to applaud this loopy sketch, then go quiet as one of them declares, “They still haven’t said much about the meaning of life, have they?” I thought fish were smarter than this.

The film’s penultimate segment, “Death,” shows the black-hooded title character (John Cleese) interrupting a dinner at an isolated country house where friends have gathered. It takes them a while, but the friends slowly realize that Death has come to claim them for good. Finally, a member of the group named Debbie (Michael Palin again!)  smugly asks, “How can we all have died at the same time?” Death points his, er, finger of death at the meal’s offending main dish:

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“The salmon mousse!”

The hostess (Eric Idle) then offers her apologies at having prepared the dish with cheap canned salmon. As the group are being escorted by Death to their final fate, Debbie comes to a too-late realization: “Hey, I didn’t even eat the mousse!”

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But undoubtedly, the movie’s most memorable and controversial ode to edibles is “The Autumn Years,” wherein a beyond-morbidly-obese man, Mr. Creosote (Terry Jones), enters a restaurant for a gazillion-course meal, offered by Mr. C.’s regular waiter, an obsequious maitre d’ (John Cleese). Mr. C. gulps down countless courses of food, punctuated every so often by his vomiting as a matter of habit, which does little for the appetites of the surrounding customers.

At meal’s end, the maitre d’ dares to offer Mr. Creosote “a wafer-thin mint.” At first, Mr. C. declares he’s full, but eventually he is talked into consuming the mint — lovingly served by the maitre d’, who then vaults behind a restaurant display, knowing the apocalypse to come.

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Beyond his control, Mr. Creosote’s already huge stomach expands, and then it explodes all over the restaurant’s guests, causing them to lose their meals as well. As pandemonium ensues, the maitre d’ returns to nonchalantly hand Mr. Creosote his check for the evening.

As with most of the Monty Python oeuvre, The Meaning of Life gives you a lot to sink your teeth into — and some of it is sure to haunt you later, in one form or another.

 

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End of THE MONTY PYTHON MOVIE BLOGATHON

This blogathon is getting too silly for words…so it’s time to salute our remaining bloggers in

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(Click on the appropriate day to read blogathon entries from Day 1 and Day 2. For today’s entries, click on the appropriate blogger’s name.)

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lifesdailylessonsblog finds too many life lessons to count in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.

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Reelweegiemidget Reviews finds fun in Eric Idle’s supported, er, supporting role in National Lampoon’s European Vacation.

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And last but not least, The James Bond Social Media Project takes a look at John Cleese as Bond’s sardonic gadget man “R” in The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day.

And that’s the end! Thanks to our creative blog entrants for their fun contributions, and thanks for reading us for the past three days. Stay tuned later this evening for yet another blogathon announcement!

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THE MONTY PYTHON MOVIE BLOGATHON – Day 2 Recap

Unlike the Spanish Inquisition, everybody expects a blogathon recap — so let’s pounce right into

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(Click here for Day 1’s entries if you missed them. To read Day 2’s entries, just click on the individual blog names highlighted below.)

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Serendipitous Anachronisms starts things off with a bang (or at least the clacking of coconuts) with her critique of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

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Moon in Gemini reviews John Cleese and Michael Palin’s underrated A Fish Called Wanda follow-up, Fierce Creatures.

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And finally, The Cinematic Frontier offers its thoughts on Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King, starring Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges.

And we still have one day of not-so-silly blogging left to go. Keep us bookmarked for Day 3! Because after all, you’ve got a nice blog, and we’d hate to see anything happen to it…

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THE MONTY PYTHON MOVIE BLOGATHON – Day 1 Recap

We won’t keep you in suspense any longer, as we know you must be grinding your teeth waiting to see

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It’s appropriate that Terry Gilliam’s visage hovers over this recap, as his movies constitute the majority (3 out of 4) of Day 1’s blog entries. (Click on the appropriate blog’s name to link to their blogathon entry.)

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The Midnite Drive-In has time to kill in more ways than one with their critique of Gilliam’s family-film fantasy Time Bandits.

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Radiator Heaven cannot tell a lie — they enjoyed the otherworldly vision of Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

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BNoir Detour detected some sinister noir elements in Gilliam’s futuristic tale Brazil.

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And finally, yours truly opted for a Baron Munchausen-like take on the life of Graham Chapman, as narrated by Chapman himself (with help from fellow Pythons), in the animated film A Liar’s Autobiography.

And there’s more to come, so keep us bookmarked for the next two days. As for the rest of you blogathon participants: It’s time to talk the talk and walk the silly walk!

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Don’t run away — THE MONTY PYTHON MOVIE BLOGATHON is here!

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To honor the 47th (!) anniversary of the world premiere of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” this blog is spending the next few days letting bloggers chime in on their favorite movies (group and solo) from members of the British comedy troupe Monty Python. Join us as we celebrate this groundbreaking comedy team!

If you are one of the blogathon entrants, please post the URL to your blog entry in the “Comments” section below, and I will link to it as soon as possible. Please have your entry posted by the end of the day on Monday, Oct. 3 (and if I may, the sooner the better!).

If you are just stopping by for some great reading, please give this blog bookmarked, as entries will continue coming in for the next three days. Enjoy the silliness!

Here are the blogathon’s entrants:

Movie Movie Blog Blog – The movie version of Graham Chapman’s A Liar’s Autobiography

BNoirDetour – Terry Gilliam’s Brazil

Cinematic Frontier – Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King

lifesdailylessonsblog – Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life

Serendipitous Anachronisms – Monty Python and the Holy Grail

The James Bond Social Media Project – John Cleese in the James Bond films The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day

Moon in Gemini – John Cleese and Michael Palin in Fierce Creatures

The Midnite Drive-In – Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits

Radiator Heaven – Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Reelweegiemidget Reviews – Eric Idle in National Lampoon’s European Vacation