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TIFF Capsule Review: 'A Liar's Autobiography -- The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman'

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire September 12, 2012 at 5:46PM

Even dedicated Monty Python fans might be surprised to learn some of the details revealed about the private exploits of the late Graham Chapman in this innovative take on the non-fiction biopic form. Largely consisting of animation created by 14 different studios and 17 varying styles, "A Liar's Autobiography" uses audio recordings Chapman made for his memoir prior to his death in 1989 for an ongoing voiceover track. As Chapman tracks his progress from an uninspiring adolescence to his burgeoning homosexuality and alcoholism, the wildly schizophrenic narrative gives the impression that it stems directly from the dead Python's consciousness. The movie features an enjoyably loony edge as it veers from cogent reminiscences to absurd fantasy sequences (including one very bizarre trip into outer space), which creates the impression of the Pythons' version of "Yellow Submarine." However, jam-packed with visual conceits and featuring three directors (including Python member Terry Jones' son Bill), "A Liar's Autobiography" strains from the density of its silliness and ultimately fails to fuse the material together. The situation is worsened by a lack of comedic inspiration to supplement its whimsical nature. The result is a portrait of a funny man that's not particularly funny, and that's a serious problem. Criticwire grade: B- [Eric Kohn]
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Even dedicated Monty Python fans might be surprised to learn some of the details revealed about the private exploits of the late Graham Chapman in this innovative take on the non-fiction biopic form. Largely consisting of animation created by 14 different studios and 17 varying styles, "A Liar's Autobiography" uses audio recordings Chapman made for his memoir prior to his death in 1989 for an ongoing voiceover track. As Chapman tracks his progress from an uninspiring adolescence to his burgeoning homosexuality and alcoholism, the wildly schizophrenic narrative gives the impression that it stems directly from the dead Python's consciousness.

The movie features an enjoyably loony edge as it veers from cogent reminiscences to absurd fantasy sequences (including one very bizarre trip into outer space), which creates the impression of the Pythons' version of "Yellow Submarine." However, jam-packed with visual conceits and featuring three directors (including Python member Terry Jones' son Bill), "A Liar's Autobiography" strains from the density of its silliness and ultimately fails to fuse the material together. The situation is worsened by a lack of comedic inspiration to supplement its whimsical nature. The result is a portrait of a funny man that's not particularly funny, and that's a serious problem. Criticwire grade: B- [Eric Kohn]

This article is related to: Toronto International Film Festival, Reviews, Monty Python, A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python's Graham Chapman






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