REFERENCE

A Book About the Film Monty Python's Life of Brian: All the References from Assyrians to Zeffirelli

Rowman & Littlefield. Feb. 2018. 496p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781538103654. $50; ebk. ISBN 9781538103661. REL
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Larsen (media arts, Brigham Young Univ.) explicates allusions to the 1979 film Monty Python's Life of Brian with the same exhaustive, erudite attention and unstuffy style as in his similar A Book About the Film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Proceeding sequentially through the film's 31 scenes, and bolstered by copious endnotes and a lengthy bibliography, the author's detailed analysis unearths abundant connections to literature, art, history, religion, economics, sociology, sports, politics, and entertainment and pop culture. Wry comments keep the scholarly text from becoming dry. Some background elements of Life of Brian are dated (needing explanation now, 40 years on), others timeless (but also usefully elucidated). Larsen examines script directions and mise-en-scène but focuses mostly on references in the dialog. In the introduction he discusses the comedy troupe's influences and draws parallels between late-1970s Britain and the Pythons' version of the holy land some 2,000 years before: religious and political zealotry, terrorism, protest, and cultural change. The introduction also notes the film's relative lack of historicity (compared to The Holy Grail), emphasizing its reflection of contemporary events and culture. Setting this film in the context of the Pythons' oeuvre, Larsen frequently cites his own previous work, not surprising as he is arguably the Pythons' reigning scholar.
VERDICT The organization (by scene rather than by theme) can make it challenging to mine the gems here, but film students, social and cultural historians, and, naturally, fans, will find riches to pore over.

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