The problem with a red carpet event in New York, in October, is that the vagaries of the weather might actually make the temps feel closer to that of a December evening, and it is likely to be windy, and there will probably be rain. And so now some sort of water-repellent tents have to be erected around the check-in table, and guests are queued up umbrella to umbrella, and some poor publicist’s expensive shoes are likely to become soaked.
That fairly represents the scene outside the Ziegfeld Theatre for the screening of the new documentary “Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer’s Cut),” being presented by IFC and coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the troupe. The Pythons were also on hand to receive a special BAFTA award for Outstanding Achievement in Film and Television.
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Celebrity arrivals were photographed in the plush lobby, while attendees were ushered upstairs and proffered free concession stand staples: popcorn and soda. Which, yum. Unless, say, you hadn’t had dinner, and on your trip to the bathroom you snagged a second bag of overly-salted popcorn. Then it could be a tad sick-making!
Besides the honorees, comedian Steve Coogan, who is interviewed in the documentary, was present. As was Jeremy Piven and two cast members from Mad Men.
An abridged, two hour version of the six-part series was shown to the crowd. While the examination of comedy rarely yields laughs, the documentary succeeds when it focuses on the absurd, groundbreaking material rather than the gushy remembrances of fanatic talking heads. The film doesn’t shy away from addressing the internecine squabbling, and took a touching turn in the section devoted to the funeral of Graham Chapman.
The six Pythons (with Chapman represented by a cardboard cut-out) took the stage to a standing ovation for the Q&A portion. Which, thankfully, questions were submitted beforehand, to minimize the awkward moments when a trembly kook of an audience member might, presented with a microphone and a captive crowd, take the opportunity to meander on about labor strikes and grain prices in something not quite phrased as a question and only tangentially related to the proceeds at hand. (There is always one guy!) Not that there were not some awkward moments. But mostly is was dry, droll banter and quippy interplay. (Perhaps you caught the live stream of that portion from the warmth and solitude of your living room?)
The question session wrapped with Eric Idle singing “The Galaxy Song,” after which each member was presented with their BAFTA award. Cleese deadpanned to the audience upon receipt, “If you want to get a better view, this will be on eBay tomorrow.”