Sunday, April 10, 2011

Terry Gilliam on the Sense of a Non-Ending

It's a crotchet of mine that most novels end badly: novels are finite and life goes on so at some point you have to wrap things up and the wrapup usually doesn't work.  A favorite exception: Stendahl's Charterhouse of Parma, where the author in a spasm of primordial postmodernism lets us know that he has at last lost patience with his characters and just sends 'em all packing.

Listening to Terry Gilliam on BBC's Desert Island Discs this morning, I got dignified support for my theory.  You remember Gilliam: the one non-Brit in the Monty Python team, he was the cartoonist, the talent behind all those weird, surreal framing exercises that distinguish the Pythons from so many other first-rate British sketch operations of the time.

Listen to Gilliam and you come to realize that it was the Pythons felt the same way about sketches: try to give them a punch line and more often than not, the punch line will fall flat. Better just have someone drop in and crush everybody with a giant foot.

Sounds right to me, but Mrs. Buce asks: don't people getting bored seeing everyone get crushed with a giant foot?  Fair point, which may explain why the classic Python show lasted for only 45 episodes--and the movies, it seemed to me, never did quite so well.  Ironically, when Life of Brian came out, I tended to dismiss it as too linear.  Yet of all the movies, it may be the one to have proven most durable.

Here's a giant foot:

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