A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson and Ben Timlett

A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson and Ben Timlett
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There's a fine line between fiction and embellishment. Straddling that thin divide is where history-obsessed British absurdist comedy troupe Monty Python found the most fertile ground for their pointed irreverence. It's only fitting, then, that the biography of Graham Chapman (the dead one) is approached through a similar smokescreen of tall tales that barely conceal heavy truths. Obvious super-fans, directors Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson and Ben Timlett seized the opportunity to manufacture a Flying Circus reunion from beyond the grave, using audio of Chapman reading from his autobiography, recorded three years prior to his death, calling in the less dead members and, bizarrely, Cameron Diaz (as Sigmund Freud) to add new vocal performances to the text. A variety of artists were given the task of animating the project, adding to the surreal and pretentious vibe of the endeavour. While Chapman's actual inflated yarns are often quite funny and barbed, with level-headed, humanist insights, especially regarding sexuality and religion, the approach used to realize it for the screen, fitting as it may be, yields mixed results. For the legions of Python acolytes (who are loath to admit the crew was frequently hit-or-miss), the very nature of A Liar's Autobiography is too scattershot to maintain a consistent level of quality or unity of vision. The varied animation teams have a heck of a lot to do with how each scene plays — deformed boob balloons and giant penises bumping tips in two different phases of Chapman's sexual exploration are a lot funnier and more thematically telling than CGI monkeys tossing ideas around or talking cut-outs flubbing their lines at a theatre performance. On the flipside, anyone strictly interested in just who Graham Chapman was will find it difficult to separate fact from fiction. It's unclear whether the talented writer and capable actor is obscuring his life story out of lingering insecurities over his alcoholism and homosexuality or if he really does just love taking the piss above all else. Like most things in life, and in Python, the truth likely lies in the gray area between. Luckily, or sadly, depending on your degree of reverence for how Chapman chose to tell his story, "Anatomy of a Liar," a mini-documentary on making the film, is included in the home video release to lend some veracity to many of the wild tales, giving credence to the notion that "truth is stranger than fiction," especially when you dress it in drag. This "Story Behind the Story" features interviews with Chapman's partner of 23 years, David Sherlock, Chapman's brother, the filmmakers, animators and most of the remaining members of the Flying Circus — too busy fading into obscurity, Eric Idle? Their candid truth telling is sure to please some and disappoint others by cracking Chapman's deliberate enigma. The other bits of bonus content are far less interesting, comprised of various odds and ends of behind-the-scenes footage. These range from researching the size of bison testicles to sound mixing to an appearance at Comic Con, with all the awkward displays from cosplay fans that entails. And voiceover session footage with Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam isn't as entertaining as one would hope. Only one thing is certain by the time all is said and done: you'll have had more than enough of hearing, "Sit On My Face." (eOne)