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The Cinema of Terry GilliamIt's a Mad World$
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Jeff Birkenstein, Anna Froula, and Karen Randell

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231165358

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231165358.001.0001

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‘And Now for Something Completely Different’

‘And Now for Something Completely Different’

Pythonic Arthuriana and the Matter of Britain

(p.42) Chapter Three ‘And Now for Something Completely Different’
The Cinema of Terry Gilliam

Jim Holte

Columbia University Press

This chapter explores the mythical legends that are taken up in Terry Gilliam's Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), and later in its stage adaptation, Spamalot (2005). The film consists of a series of comedic sketches based loosely on the Quest for the Holy Grail, one of the central and perhaps best known and most popular elements of the Matter of Britain—King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Throughout the film, the heroic Arthurian tradition is continually undercut, creating a deconstructive text that provides a parody of itself as the narrative moves forward. Scenes such as “Knights of the Round Table”, “The Tale of Sir Galahad”, and “The Tale of Sir Lancelot” are easily recognised as part of traditional Matter of Britain. However, such scenes as “Coconuts”, “The Trojan Rabbit”, and “The Holy Hand Grenade” suggest a dialectical movement between the sublime and the ridiculous that is the foundation of much Pythonic humour.

Keywords:   Monty Python, Spamalot, mythical legends, Holy Grail, Matter of Britain, King Arthur, Round Table, Arthurian tradition

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