• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


    Friday, July 07, 2006

    Silverscreen Beats: Life of Brian

    The fourth programme in the 5 part Silverscreen Beats series about music from Jesus films aired yesterday, and it was the turn of Monty Python's Life of Brian. When I first heard about this particular instalment I hoped it might be the most significant episode, but also worried it would just be 15 minutes discussion about "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life". Thankfully, it was the former and not the latter.

    There were a few things that I thought were particularly worth of note. Firstly, composer Geoffrey Burgon, who was quoted extensively, expressed his disappointment that no-one ever picks up on the musical quotes he puts in citing, Mozart, Wagner and Monte Verdi in particular. I know that James Monaco in "How to Read a Film" suggests that our lack of appreciation for comedy film demonstrates that we don't really understand the medium of film enough. The fact that the music for Life of Brian has been so overlooked, even when it is actually a key part of the humour, gives some support to his theory.

    The other thing that particularly stood out was when Terry Jones admitted he hadn't really liked "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" when he first heard it. The musical analysis of the song reveals how it has the same underlying sequence as the famous do-wop progression (you'll know it when you hear it).

    One thing they didn't mention is how the film's score not only parodies 60s biblical epics, particularly King of Kings and Spartacus, but also how the song over the opening credits parodies the Shirley Bassey-esque opening songs of the James Bond franchise.

    There's plenty of discussion around about this film, but in particular I'd recommend the chapter on the film in Stern, Jefford and Debona's "Savior on the Silver Screen".

    The programme can still heard listened to on the BBC Website. The final programme airs this afternoon and investigates Peter Gabriel's score for Last Temptation of Christ.

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    • At 4:06 pm, July 07, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      I don't think Burgon said (or meant) Monte Verdi; just plain old Verdi. Incidentally, he (Burgon) also said that the Python's used the set left over from Fellini's Jesus of Nazareth...! Now that would be a version worth avoiding!

    • At 4:40 pm, July 07, 2006, Blogger Matt Page said…

      He definitely says Monteverdi, but I'm not sufficiently well versed in music to know whether he means Monteverdi, or whether he simply means Verdi, but has Monty Python on the brain and so says Monty Verdi by mistake.

      Good spot on Fellini/Zefferelli by the way. There have been a few minor, but obvious errors in this series like that. (In his defence he doesn't mention Jesus of Nazareth, just Fellini).

      FWIW I've never actually seen a Fellini film.

    • At 6:07 pm, July 07, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      The BBC are very insistent on letting us know the credentials of the presenter, Miles Jupp, "theology graduate". The BBC Press Office website gives us some more info about Mr Jupp:

      "Miles Jupp was nominated for the Perrier Best Newcomer Award at the Edinburgh Fringe 2003. Other awards include winner of Channel 4's So You Think You're Funny in 2001. Miles is also known to millions of children as Archie the Engine Driver from the hit BBC TV series Balamory."


    • At 6:42 am, July 08, 2006, Blogger Peter T Chattaway said…

      I thought the omission of any reference to the James-Bond-music parody of the opening credits was a bit odd, myself -- the BBC rightly noted that Life of Brian is first and foremost a parody of a particular film genre, but they didn't note the way it parodies other genres too. (If the Bible epic was the dominant Hollywood genre of the 1950s, then the spy movie was the dominant Hollywood genre of the 1960s, and the space movie -- parodied in the sequence where Brian suddenly ends up in the middle of a space battle! -- ended up becoming the dominant Hollywood genre of the late 1970s and beyond.)

    • At 1:29 pm, February 05, 2008, Blogger Stansted Parking Meet and Greet said…

      What a great subject and I came across it by chance. My name is Peter Burgon and I was doing a search on the name Burgon. The Life of Brian is one of the best films I have ever seen and I think MPFC are brilliant.

      I work as a Meet and Greet Driver at Stansted Airport but in my spare time love listening to music and watching movies. One of the best things I like to do in my spare time is play poker, both live and online.

      I have a poker blog at Drum Poker

      Keep up the great work on this blog.


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