The Salad Days

7 Jul

It used to be that all you could find on Netflix Watch Instantly were second-rate romantic comedies starring Katherine Heigl (and the Katherines Heigl of yesteryear), the low-budget porn-ish dredges of whatever National Lampoon is spewing out these days (although The Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell does intrigue me…), or 30 Rock. I love you 30 Rock! We need to find a better list for 30 Rock to be on. Anyway, Watch Instantly is getting so much better! I no longer need to spend all night trying to find something I can justify wasting two hours watching, and the most recent finds have proven to be surprisingly inspiring. Monty Python: Almost the Truth, a documentary that originally aired on IFC featuring interviews from the surviving members plus a whole heap of comedians who love them.

Delving deeper into the world of Monty Python has been so interesting to me not because I’m unfamiliar with their work, but perhaps because I’m too familiar. The crew has always been a part of my life. In fact, the story goes that when I was keeping my parents awake at odd hours of the night as a baby, they would sit up with me and watch re-runs of the Flying Circus on PBS. And because it has always just “been there,” I’ve really taken advantage of how odd and incendiary it is. Furthermore, their work aligns so well with my father’s sense of humor (smart, nonsensical, meandering) that I still find myself trying to put together exactly what everyone else finds so odd about it. Doesn’t everyone’s father reenact the Ministry of Silly Walks scene at the mall?

Whoops! My dad is the coolest.

In any case, the documentary has made one previously discounted thing more obvious to me: the stunning, ridiculous, spot-on animations of Terry Gilliam. Mr. Gilliam is surely the most under-appreciated of the bunch, with very few people realizing his contribution to be equal to that of the other Pythons. This isn’t an unfair conclusion; after all, he was the only American, he rarely had screen time, and when he did, he was usually there just to look goofy and promote a laugh or two. However, the documentary really highlights his work and demonstrates how necessary his contributions were. He provided the perfect end to an endless skit, segued into others, and found the foot that would become forever associated with the troupe. The documentary also mentions that he was paid so little that he had to do all the animations without an assistant, which for a weekly television program is frankly insane. And as an animation fiend, I’m sort of ashamed that I’ve ignored his work for so long, as he truly is on point with the likes of Max Ernst, Walerian Borowczyk, Jan Svankmajer, and the Brothers Quay… fart noises totally withstanding.

And lastly but not leastly, do yourself a favor and watch this. It makes me happy whenever I’m blue…

Photo via Vanity Fair.

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