Monty Python: The Meaning of Live

With unprecedented access, this program reveals the humour, chaos and passion that went into bringing the Flying Circus to the stage cumulating in the legendary One Down, Five To Go.


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  • ★★★½ review by dantesring on Letterboxd

    This documentary, which focuses on the farewell run of shows that Monty Python performed, is a pretty involving and sobering look at the troupe. Nicely the film doesn't spend a ton of time going over the history of the group and their impact, there are other documentaries out there for that, and instead focuses more on the backstage goings on of the show. The film also doesn't give us a ton of the performance footage, enough to give us a taste, which allows it to stay on track.

    The first thing that strikes you is how much these gentlemen have aged. I grew up with Monty Python, especially their films, and they are forever fixed in my head as their younger selves. I have seen them in other projects, but seeing them in the group format only shows how sharply they have grown older.

    The history of Python is littered with stories of their disagreeableness with each other, so it was nice to see how they pulled together for one last time and put their history behind them, mostly. These are incredibly smart men, but it seems that the most valuable lesson they've learned is how to let things go. They still speak candidly of their opinions of each other, but it is with more affection than vitriol. Cleese, notoriously the most brittle of the group, in particular comes off well.

    Sadly, the film shows the deterioration of Jones, who is clearly succumbing to dementia. The film is careful to edit around this, but it seems that this is the last time we will ever see him engaged. It puts a somber note of mortality to the proceedings that their handling of Chapman's death never did.

    The film is a little too long with too many scenes backstage where nothing is really happening and an extended moment with Mike Myers comes off poorly. Ten fewer minutes off of this would have made it much more concise, but it is a real treat to see these men have their final moment as a group and do it with dignity and success. I am sure that it is the last thing that they would have expected.

  • ★★★½ review by Tron329 on Letterboxd

    #200 Monty Python: The Meaning of Live (2014) #2017MovieMarathon Documentary on the legendary comedy troupe's 2014 shows at London's O2 Arena.

  • ★★★★ review by pkazee on Letterboxd

    Thinks I think I learned from - or had confirmed by - this doc:

    John Cleese was the know-it-all perfectionist Nazi of the group.

    Cleese did not like or respect Terry Jones for the 1st two years of the series.

    Cleese is not sure if he ever agreed with a single thing Terry Gilliam ever said.

    Cleese and Michael Palin were very close, though Cleese's writing partner was Graham Chapman and Palin's was Terry Jones.

    Cleese and Palin were the most heavily invested in creating fully-formed standalone sketches.

    Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle (who wrote alone) were more interested in keeping things off-center, being champions of open and/or aborted endings.

    Gilliam, a curmudgeon, was the most interested in rocking the social-political boat, though he did little writing or performing, being primarily involved with the group as an animator.

    Graham Chapman was an unreliable drunk.

    Terry Jones considers himself lucky to have been involved with so many far more creative people.

    Jones started earning respect from Cleese and others when his attentions became focused upon directing their feature films.

    Finally, Michael Palin is the only member of the group that nobody has anything seriously critical to say about.

  • ★★★★ review by Sean Kelly on Letterboxd

    A fine document of the troupe’s final performance.

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  • ★★★★ review by Jason Bailey on Letterboxd

    This entertaining and informative documentary from directors Roger Graef and James Rogan uses performance and backstage footage, as well as production and rehearsal clips, to tell the story of how Monty Python got back together (live on stage for the first time since the Hollywood Bowl shows in 1980) for a series of sold-out reunion dates at the O2 Arena in 2014. They were the first ones to admit they did it for the money (paying off a pricey lawsuit, specifically) and not for the art, which causes some self-doubt; Terry Gilliam admits that they’re all afraid of coming off like “a bunch of old farts trying to scrabble away to get some money.” The filmmakers look not just at the new shows but the role live performance has played throughout the careers, so there’s priceless footage, photos, and recordings from those old shows and the tours surrounding them. And they intercut history with the present, thus lending some real pathos to the struggles of the show and the personal dynamics that come to light.


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