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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Crimson Permanent Assurance is, to me, one of the high points of Monty Python and His Flying Circus. It was created in conjunction with the film The Meaning of Life but was created by Terry Gilliam in a separate studio. He went way over budget without informing the others and when it was finished, they wondered what to do with it; it did not fit in with the rest of the movie. They decided to include it as if it were a separate short to be shown before the feature. The short was so well received at the Cannes Film Festival that The Meaning of Life was guaranteed to be a success.
The short was originally intended to be a five-minute animated short but Gilliam felt that it would be more suited to live action. It became a 30 minute film and was then edited to 16 minutes. The film is a wonderful, highly imaginative, funny, anti-capitalist fantasy, with a very nice song.
It begins by showing what appears to be a ship's sails, which turn out actually to be canvasses that are covering the face of a large old building that is being cleaned. The original impression, however, turns out to be the reality. The Crimson Permanent Assurance Company is a very British company that has been in existence for a long, long time. Its staff loyalty has left it with a geriatric staff, who have worked there all their lives. The company has been purchased by The Very Big Corporation of America, which brings in efficiency experts to rank the staff. When a staff member is fired for being slow, rebellion erupts. Evidently, this moment has been anticipated, because everybody seems to know exactly what to do: how to use office equipment as weapons, the chain of command, that the building is able to sail off on the "Wide Accountant-sea", etc. Since the charm of the movie is its element of surprise, I will say no more (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).
One question remains: is The Crimson Permanent Assurance a separate short film or an integral part of the feature film The Meaning of Life? The answer is, "Yes!"
For more information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crimson_Permanent_Assurance
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