The animated 3D feature A Liar’s Autobiography – The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman adds to the canon of Python works, but in an even more surreal, and personal, fashion.
Most famous now for being “the dead one from Monty Python”, Graham Chapman is often overlooked when remembering the resounding worldwide success of Monty Python. Having died in 1989, Chapman was well known as perhaps the most surreal of the comedy group, often responsible for some of Python’s more outlandish sketches, and most famously, the co-writer of “The Dead Parrot” sketch.
This film offers an insight into the mind of Chapman, thanks to his presence as the film’s narrator. Three years before his death, Chapman recorded the audio used in A Liar’s Autobiography, with his sarcastically dry and observational tones accompanying the many animated styles that appear throughout the film. Chronicling Chapman’s life from his childhood in the East Midlands, to his education as a doctor in Cambridge, the beginnings of Python and the worldwide success that followed, without any concerns for “boring accuracy”, A Liar’s Autobiography is a puzzling, funny, absurd and interesting film.
Using between 15-20 animation styles throughout the film to represent the various stages in this fictionalised account of Chapman’s life, it is difficult to deny that the film is not intriguing to watch. From clay animation to stop motion, pencil drawings to animated cardboard cutouts and beyond, the film uses everything but the conventional. The various changes do well to stave off any boredom, and keeps the film ticking along nicely. The few instances when real archive footage are used are exciting to see, but do make you long to see more instead of returning to the wacky animations that make up the bulk of the film. However, the real issue is the choice to use 3D in the production, which, whilst working well in some instances, is not suited to the majority of the film’s content.
Thanks to the inclusion of voiceovers by the rest of the Pythons, it is easy to mistake this for a true Monty Python picture. However, A Liar’s Autobiography is just that, having been written by Chapman, and so goes off rather more on a tangent than classic Python material. Whilst this reckless abandon is enjoyable for the most part, and does provide some truly hilariously, and moving, moments throughout, it certainly does make the film a slight challenge to follow. This effect is made worse by the elements which may or may not be true. The details of Chapman’s life are close to the mark as well as being far off, making for a rather muddles representation of the comedian. However, this is not to say that there are no insights into his life.
Chapman’s sexuality is a recurring theme throughout, as his coming out prior to this being accepted by society was of course an important issue in his life. This is represented with care and attention, reflecting the importance of this aspect of Chapman, but still with a light-hearted exuberance that you would expect (“Sit On My Face” is both a gay anthem and familiar as a Python song).
A Liar’s Autobiography – The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman paints an image of a comedic talent not so much troubled, but simply unaware of the consequences of his choices. Everything is confronted with a steadfast sense of humour and fun, even the more serious elements of Chapman’s life. The various styles of animation are enjoyable, if not for the use of 3D, and propel the film forward with pace. However, Python fans may wish for more of the classic style that defined the comedy group, instead of Chapman’s irreverent fantasy that is on offer here.
Watch out for: Cameron Diaz’s brief appearance as the voice of Sigmund Freud.