A beautiful film, a perfect comedy, and a gentle triumph of silliness over pomposity, self-importance, and intolerance - "Life of Brian" could be the best British comedy ever.
In Judea, a mother tends her newborn child. Lo, from the east three wise men appear to pay tribute to the infant - but they want the stable next door: this is Brian Cohen not Jesus Christ! Rolling forward 33 years, Brian joins the People's Front of Judea, a wannabe terrorist cell out to undermine the occupying Romans. Brian gets roped into their plot to kidnap Pontius Pilate's wife but they run into another terrorist gang on the same mission and everyone is captured while squabbling among themselves.
From the opening scene and the belting Shirley Bassey-esque score, this is Python par excellence. This is the "Catch 22" of cinema, and in its politics, like Joseph Heller, the Python crew refuse to spare anyone. Always threading in and around biblical stories, the plot never contradicts or denies the Bible, it just pokes fun at the hangers-on, charlatans, and pompous officials that organised religion often attracts. This playful subversion is hilariously shown in the scene where Brian escapes from the Romans by posing as a preacher. At first he is mocked by a crowd of jaded messiah seekers, then they seize on a bizarre interpretation of his words and proclaim him their Messiah. Brian denies it, only to be told "I say you are Lord, and I should know. I've followed a few."
A true comedy classic.
"Life of Brian" is on Channel 4 at 9pm, Saturday 25th February 2001.