The joy in celebrating Monty Python's brilliant high-jinks is not dead yet.
All this week, IFC has been saluting the comedy troupe's 40th anniversary by airing the swell new six-part docuseries, "Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer's Cut)" (the channel's "Python-a-thon" concludes tonight). Beginning with such influences as "The Goon Show" and "Beyond the Fringe," the film goes on to spotlight contemporary comedians who have been influenced by Python.
Watching this series as a cartoonist, I'm struck anew by just how mind-bendingly fresh TERRY GILLIAM's animation remains. Some of the imagery seems entirely born of '50s and '60s underground art, and yet so much of it -- crafted long before the JibJab guys and the current generation could animate similar effects digitally -- springs eternally inspired, and inspiring.
Gilliam, of course, is the only member of Python not born in Britain (although he gained British citzenship and in recent years reportedly renounced his American citizenship -- perhaps for financial reasons). As the documentary notes, he went to college in California (Occidental) and was heavily influenced by MAD magazine's Harvey Kurtzman before he moved to England to animate features.
Gilliam has gone on to a great live-action film career, surely -- including "Brazil," "Time Bandits," "12 Monkeys" and the still-underappreciated "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (in a recent interview, animator/director Mike Judge and I went back and forth on which scenes were most brilliantly shot). He's also had his share of extremely troubled projects -- including his attempts to film "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" (which inspired the documentary "Lost in La Mancha"); to direct a Harry Potter film; and to complete his upcoming "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," which Heath Ledger was shooting when he died.
For all his live-action success, however, today we'll now take a moment to celebrate Gilliam's animated work. Here are five of my favorite Gilliam animations ever (some excerpted), culminating with the "Monty Python's Flying Circus" theme sequence that is emblazoned upon so many comedy-loving brains like my own. And if you've got favorite Terry Gilliam shorts, scenes or sequences of your own, then by all means: The floor is yours.
TERRY GILLIAM ANIMATION: THE COMIC RIFFS' FAVE FIVE
PURCHASE A PAST:
THE MIRACLE OF FLIGHT:
CONRAD POOH & HIS DANCING TEETH:
MONTY PYTHON'S CHARLES ATLAS:
MAIN "FLYING CIRCUS" THEME (VERSIONS NO. 1-4):