In the bleak days of 1983, the Crimson Permanent Assurance, an accountancy staffed by elderly workers much like a slave ship, has been taken over by efficiency-minded corporate types. When they sack an employee, there's an uprising, and the building is unleashed from its moorings to sail across the (dry) ocean and take on the financial centers of the world, starting with an all-out attack on the large skyscraper housing The Very Big Corporation of America, complete with filing-cabinet cannons, ceiling-fan broadswords, and paper-spindle short-swords. Written by
Jon Reeves <email@example.com>
a sprawling, unnerving, and often hilarious work by the madman filmmaker of Python
While the feature this short is presented after in succession, Monty Python's the Meaning of Life, is a very good comedy with the scattered laughs bringing some of their best moments, in sheer audacity and daring with the film-making the prize has to go to writer/director Terry Gilliam for his 'The Crimson Permanent Assurance' (in fact it did at Cannes in 83). The key to understanding it, or at least appreciating it, is knowing that it was originally meant to be shorter, much shorter, as one of the animated segways that connect the segments in the Monty Python sketches. This idea soon expanded for Gilliam, and his 'director bug' (right before his take-off to Brazil and right after his first two solo director outings) took over into this ideally cartoonish, surrealist, and perfectly anarchic comedy of will-power.
Sum up the story quick, will do- the workers at the Crimson Permanent Assurance company are old, very old, and very tired and beat down, like the ship rowers in Ben Hur. It finally breaks for their to be a revolution against the bosses, and the old men fight back. On this simple premise, Gilliam builds and builds (with extra help from cinematographer Roger Pratt, and a couple of the other Pythons as extras) until one wonders how this can even conceivably be made as entertainment. I once remember hearing Gilliam on the commentary for Holy Grail saying (sarcastically) 'the stuff in this film is so unjustifiable, its insane', and the same can definitely be said about this short film. It's big (this took up a million of the 7 or 8 million budget of Meaning of Life), its violent, its surprising, and while it maybe lacks only the sort of focused, dry British genius that was in the other members of Python, it certainly doesn't lack the daring of pushing the envelope (in this case, the Assurance 'ship' gets pushed off the world itself). Even when I wasn't laughing hard I was struck by the style of the direction, the fun in these old-school British actors, and the swashbuckling music.
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