Despite the ever-expanding solo efforts of the Monty Python team since the last collective outburst of their bewildering humour, their exploits are tinged with a hint of sadness. One of them did not live to see comedy idol status bestowed upon the troupe: the man best known for not being the Messiah in MONTY PYTHON’S LIFE OF BRIAN, Graham Chapman. However, Chapman is remembered today in the animated documentary A LIAR’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY. Before his death from cancer in 1989, Chapman took the time to make an audio recording of his autobiography, laced with his own brand of style and wit. Far from a standard reflection on a life, Chapman’s book is a combination of reality and far-fetched imagination – a Liar’s Autobiography indeed.
Using his audio recordings, 14 different animation studios have collaborated to take his words and create a 3D cinematic experience. Combining various animation styles – some of which might be familiar to E4’s Slackers Club members – the film brings Chapman’s memories to vivid life. Each chapter of the Python’s tale is enhanced by additional vocal support from surviving Pythons (all except Eric Idle), as well as a few guest stars, including Cameron Diaz as Sigmund Freud. Yes, you did read that last sentence right. Diaz really does play Sigmund Freud, in a sequence examining Chapman’s thought process during his early years. It’s an ironic piece of casting that would easily fit into a Python sketch.
Lavished with the kind of humour Python fans are accustomed to, the film illuminates the most interesting chapters of Chapman’s life. His growing up and developing sexuality, his university studies and his collaboration with John Cleese are humorously explored. Further along the journey, the troubles of fame – epitomised in a crazy-point-of-view hotel stay – make for some uncomfortable giggles, despite the brightly coloured silliness and brash vulgarity. The low points in Chapman’s life, such as his battle with alcoholism, are genuinely disturbing, thanks to some suitably unnerving animation.
The overall result of this imaginary journey is sure to delight Python fans, and reveals new sides of the man for those unaware of his personal struggles. Having said that, though, die-hard fans should not go into this film expecting major revelations: the film juggles truth and fiction to such a point that it is hard to tell the difference. That’s not to say that it fails in its task – quite the opposite. Revelling in the Python style of comedy, A Liar’s Autobiography is a fitting and amusing tribute to one of the team’s most memorable members.