Second coming for Brian
The Monty Python film arrives in Aberystwyth, 30 years late. Richard Osley reports
Sunday 29 March 2009
He might not be the Messiah, but in the eyes of a small Welsh seaside town, Monty Python's luckless but much-loved character Brian Cohen is at last no longer considered such a naughty boy, either.
Thirty years after his comic crucifixion in The Life of Brian had religious leaders in Aberystwyth so hot under the dog collar that screenings of the film were banned in their town, Brian has finally beaten his censors. And so, one of the longest-delayed premieres in cinema history took place at the 120-seat Aberystwyth Arts Centre last night.
The Python actors Terry Jones and Michael Palin, who three decades ago would have been drummed out of the town for blasphemy, made the most of the more hospitable reception by joining the audience for a charity screening.
The tale of a Jewish man mistaken for Jesus who is eventually crucified, accompanied by a chorus of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", was roundly condemned by clergy and many other Christians on its release in 1979.
Some local authorities dusted off rarely used bylaws to either ban its screening or to slap on an X-rating. Most of the bans have been lifted or expired over time, but in Aberystwyth the order from a committee of religious leaders was never relaxed and was challenged only last year after one of the film's cast became the town's mayor.
Sue Jones-Davies, who played Brian's girlfriend, Judith Iscariot, in the film, said: "People were stopping me in the street, saying: 'Go on, Sue, get the ban lifted.'" Ms Jones-Davies added that there was no paperwork or council motions to go through to get the ban lifted and that it had just "dissolved" after she asked for the film to be shown.
She joked yesterday that she could still be arrested for organising the premiere but wasn't expecting the police to burst in. "We're still here discussing the film all these years later – and that's to its credit," she said. "It is still so relevant. I think people are ready for it. I've had some lovely letters from vicars who have said: 'Show it, and I want to be there when you do.'"
Kate Egan, a film studies lecturer from Aberystwyth University, said the film had clashed with the town's "strong church community and religious base" on its release, but added that the ban had not only "put our little town on the map" but helped publicity for the film itself, as well. "It's one of the most popular comedy films of all time. Anybody could get the DVD, but, up until now, you have not been allowed to screen it here."
Books And it is whizzpopping!
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Video of Irish 'professional boxer' fighting Istanbul neighbourhood goes viral in Turkey
- 2 Novel Scarlett Johansson tried to ban, Grégoire Delacourt’s The First Thing You See, to be published in UK
- 3 Toby Sheldon: Justin Bieber lookalike found dead in motel room
- 4 Russia 'accidentally reveals' number of its soldiers killed in eastern Ukraine
- 5 Pregnant teenager Neysi Perez 'wakes up in coffin' a day after her funeral
Strictly Come Dancing contestants 2015: Helen George to join line-up
Friends fan comes up with horribly dark alternative ending to sitcom
Dismaland: The artists doing cooler things than Banksy at his 'bemusement park'
Novel Scarlett Johansson tried to ban, Grégoire Delacourt’s The First Thing You See, to be published in UK
Edinburgh Fringe: 25 funniest jokes of all-time
Dresden riots: Protesters in Germany attack refugee buses shouting 'foreigners out'
France train shooting: US soldiers speak of the moment they stopped gunman and 'beat him until he was unconscious'
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs