A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman

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A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman
Directed by Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson, and Ben Timlett
Opens November 2, Angelika Film Center
Available on Epix

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A biopic bent on futzing with the form, A Liar's Autobiography bears the strong authorial stamp of its subject, but nonetheless looks like something made by committee: The 3-D feature incorporates 17 different animation styles (by 14 different houses), roughly one for each featured episode from the life of Monty Python's Graham Chapman (1941–89). An audio recording of Chapman reading his 1980 book serves as the backbone, while directors Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson, and Ben Timlett incorporate miscellaneous supporting-player voice work by surviving Pythons John Cleese, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and Terry Gilliam (Eric Idle is conspicuously absent). Although given an outlandish spin, the story appears to follow the basic arc of Chapman's life, as he progresses from precocious kid to worldwide celebrity, along the way coming out of the closet (to the shock of friends, who note his "butch" pipe-smoking habit) and struggling with alcoholism (rock bottom comes courtesy of a drunken heterosexual-sex bender). Naturally, some of the animated sequences are more inspired than others: A comic-book-realist dogfight nicely brings us inside the fantasy life of Chapman the young bookworm, while the idea of populating Hollywood-party scenes with partially see-through figures seems rather, well, transparent. Much of the for-the-fans humor also grows tiresome, particularly the raunchier stuff. That old standby the cock 'n' balls provides a recurring visual motif; the Python song "Sit on My Face" gets a needlessly extended rendition. Still, the movie has enough weird-wild-ride brio to convince you that Chapman was indeed quite a character.

 
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