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March 3, 2013

Movie Review: Monty Python's A Liar's Autobiography (2012, DVD)

Review By: Rob Sibley

Graham Chapman was a legend, plain and simple. He sadly lived a very short life, passing away from throat cancer at the age of 48. But, he most definitely brought and continues to bring joy and humor to many people's lives. This is because Mr. Chapman was one of the founders of Monty Python! He also played Arthur in Monty Python And The Holy Grail.

In 1969 Mr. Chapman joined up with his university chums consisting of John Cleese, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Michael Palin & Terry Gilliam. Together they formed the comedy troupe Monty Python. Their show “Flying Circus” was an instant hit when it aired on BBC and soon gathered quite the following when it aired on PBS on American shores.

This documentary “A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman” is a touching and very funny look at the amazing life Chapman led. This documentary or “cinematic memoir” as the producers call it is unlike anything you've ever seen before. What the Python boys did was take Chapman's own audio recordings of him reading his autobiography, they then added their own voices and hired 14 animation houses. This creates one of the more surreal documentaries I've ever seen.

This documents Chapman's life from his early days where he actually got a Cambridge education and was going to have a career as a doctor. The only real drawback to this documentary is the bit that features Sigmund Freud voiced by Cameron Diaz. It's a clever attempt but it fails miserably due to Diaz. The scene was shot using stop motion animation though which was very cool.

Each animated segment really stands out, there are about 20 different animation techniques used through-out the 90 minute run time. It's a clever way to show case the life of such a legendary figure as Graham Chapman. One of the highlights of the entire documentary is just how bewildered and puzzled John Cleese was when he found out that Chapman was in fact gay. We also learn about Chapman's problems with Alcoholism. The “Sit on my face and tell me you love me” segment is a classic bit of Python.

Those expecting something like your typical Flying Circus episode will be let done. This is certainly it's own beast. But it deserves to be seen if your a Python fan. It's oddly operatic, overly absurd and surreal and speeds along like a bullet train but isn't that why Python is all about? But at the end of the day it's a lovely look at a fascinating individual.

The DVD courtesy of Virgil Films looks terrific, the 16:9 widescreen transfer really translates all of the colorfully animated segments very well. It's a shame though that this wasn't also given a Blu-ray release.

The audio is 2.0 but it gets the job done, no qualms here.

The extras is where the disk really shines. Best of the special features is “Anatomy of a Liar”. Which is a 47 minute documentary which actually works more as a straightforward look at the life of Chapman. We get to learn a lot more about the man in this then we do in the actual film itself. The interviews with Cleese and Gilliam are priceless. We also get plenty of interviews with the animators of each segments who are fascinating to hear from.

We also get some behind the scenes featurettes which are broken down into individual chapters. Included as well is the theatrical trailer.

Overall “A Liars Autobiography”, is a terrific surreal trip into the mind and life of Graham Chapman. This documentary along with the excellent special features makes this disk worth adding to your Python collection. RECOMMENDED.

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