Monday, 16 November 2009

322: Monty Python - Tchaikovsky

"Monty Python's Flying Circus"
26 October 1972

Wow, this gets though a lot in an awfully short time. Pay no attention to the subtitles.

Besides all the usual sharp Pythonesque nonsense subverting high culture and parodying the media, this is inspired by contemporary revelations and innuendoes about a long dead composer. From a period when Ken Russell films were big stuff, his 1970 film “The Music Lovers” was not shy about Tchaikovsky’s homosexuality – although it has absolutely no relevance to John Cleese’s summary. And it allows for slightly salacious comments through the sketch, ie, “contains material that some people might find offensive but which is really smashing” and “the naughty bits, which were extremely naughty for his time”

So Eric Idle’s opening salvo, “Was he just an old poof who wrote tunes” undercuts all the traditional respect and typical dignity of the arts documentary format.

“Hello Pianist” is an obvious play off the camp salute “Hello sailor”.

Particularly unexpected is Michael Palin’s gossipy hairdresser Maurice (and compare his previous outing as a hairdresser climbing Mount Everest). The campness is out of all proportion to the normal documentary manner, although tangentially related to Tchaikovsky’s homosexuality. A gay hairdresser is an acknowledged cliché, and rather more than Graham Chapman’s David Unction, deliberately exaggerating the stereotype is part of the joke. So this is a Pythonesque poof since it is a comic collision between disparate styles. The actual performance is just a great gawping mouth, with lots of eye rolling and delicately held hands. The alliterative slang is a new one to me though (25/11/09 Turns out that it's a variant on Polari, camply referring to things like "Lily Law".)

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