A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman
- James Mottram
- 4 February 2013
A chaotic tribute to the former Python that sheds very little light on the facts
Graham Chapman remains the most enigmatic member of the Monty Python team. Even before his premature death in 1989, when he succumbed to throat cancer aged just 49, he had failed to capitalise on the success of the landmark BBC show in the way the other Pythons had. The self-dubbed 'raging poof', who struggled with alcoholism, wrote a fake telling of his life, 1980’s A Liar’s Autobiography, a title which says a lot about the aura of mystery that surrounds him.
Before he died, Chapmman recorded an audio version of the book – and it’s these vocals that form the basis of this loopy animated 3D project. With three directors (Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson, Ben Timlett) and fourteen separate animation companies (working on seventeen different segments, all in very different styles), it’s an organised chaos that surely captures the anarchic spirit of Chapman, even if it leaves you none the wiser about the man himself.
This patchwork film breezes through Chapman’s life, or a bizarre approximation of it, from his Midlands childhood to his days reading medicine at Cambridge, where he joined the famed Footlights drama society. Later periods in this pipe-smoking Python’s existence are also covered, notably his move to Los Angeles as a tax exile, living with his long-term partner David Sherlock. Oh, and Cameron Diaz pops up, voicing Freud.
With vocals provided by all the ex-Pythons bar Eric Idle, A Liar’s Autobiography inevitably feels like a Monty Python spin-off project – The Life of Graham, perhaps. While the use of animation recalls the tone of Terry Gilliam’s work on the old BBC shows, the big problem is just how whimsical it all feels. It says something that the concluding use of real footage from Chapman’s funeral, where John Cleese pays tribute to him, is the most funny and poignant moment of the whole film.
Selected release from Fri 8 Feb.