Bill and Ben Productions’ A Liar’s Autobiography, an animated 3D flick based on the memoir of Monty Python veteran Graham Chapman, plays today at the Toronto Film festival. Pic uses Chapman’s narration of his autobiography, recorded shortly before his 1989 death from cancer. Produced and directed by Bill Jones, Ben Timlett and Jeff Simpson, pic used several animation companies working on different chapters in different styles.
Here’s how I phrased my reaction after seeing it in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago:
“Not bad, pretty good, nice animation, mezzo-meh but I was’t blown away. I’m not sure the 3D was even necessary. It’s intriguing to see adult themes and subjects like alcoholism, gay identity in the ’60s and ’70s and bacchanalian excess addressed and explored in an animated feature, but It was never more than mildly interesting.
“I would have preferred a straight taking-head doc about Chapman because that way, at least, it wouldn’t have been so much of a gay-agenda thing. That’s what I sensed, at least. We all know about gay guys in the ’60s and ’70s who decided to come out and openly be themselves and, fortified with this new boldness and openness, fucked everyone and everything that moved, but we also know where that eventually led, and not a word about AIDS and HIV in the whole thing?
“I just don’t see why it’s of any particular interest to follow the life of a talented. quite witty Monty Python guy who was into gin, gin, gin, gin, gin and more gin (another self-destructive tale of a guy who nearly drank himself to death….yawn), and also fucking and sucking, fucking and sucking, fucking and sucking, fucking and sucking and….did I mention fucking and sucking?
“Oh, yes — he was also into Hollywood lifestyles and Hollywood name-dropping in the late ’70s and early ’80s. It doesn’t even mention he was on Hollywood Squares? Or did I miss that?
“The poor guy died of pipe smoking (i.e., throat cancer or tonsil cancer) and the film doesn’t even MENTION THIS? Not even in passing, not even as a wry joke?
“No matter — the important thing is to present animated Monty Python-esque images of men fucking and sucking, fucking and sucking, fucking and sucking, fucking and sucking, etc. This is basically an animated gay-guy fucking-and-sucking movie. It’s cool that Chapman embraced his own Chapman-ness and that he was openly gay as of the early ’70s and he really fucked and sucked his way around London and LA…fine. I was a slut myself in the ’70s and early ’80s but it’s just not a very interesting subject.
“Life HAS to be about more than which gender you prefer sexually and whether you like fucking women in the Biblical way or getting blown by women or by men and fucking guys in the ass. There really, REALLY has to be more to our time on this planet than just this. …please.
“Questioner: “‘So Graham, how’s your life been going so far?’ Chapman: ‘Well, I love the gay life and, uhm, I, uhhm…well that’s it! Is there something else about life on this planet that I should be noticing or caring about? No? Didn’t think so.’
“I was sitting there going, ‘Why did they make this movie again? What’s in it for me exactly? Because I’m not getting it.
“Lessons to be learned from A Liar’s Autobiography: (a) It’s good to accept who you are and fly your own freak flag and be proud of that; (b) It’s not good to be a drunk; (c) You also might want to cut back on the pipe-smoking; (d) It’s better to delve into matters of some weight or depth or soul and to nurture the eternals rather than always flitting around Hollywood and partying with the other party people and going on Hollywood Squares; and (e) if you’re into guys, it sure was great having mad monkey sex with them before AIDS came along!
“What did I miss?”