It's not Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Part 2, but the latest offering from the legendary British comedy troupe is sure to please longtime fans: The six men of Monty Python have released an iPad app to commemorate the release of the all-time classic medieval laugh riot on Blu-Ray.
The iPad app is called "Monty Python: The Holy Book of Days," and it is packed with material that supplements and colors the original 1975 film. The app, which ZDNet rightly called "essential for any self-respecting Python fan," is split into two parts: The first acts like an extras section on a DVD, with never-before-seen outtakes and stills, the screenplay with handwritten notes, animations of important props and the like.
The second part of the app, meanwhile, is an intriguing bit of cinema history: The movie was filmed in 28 days (hence the app's title, "The Holy Book of Days"), and the app features a day-by-day filming diary that culls memories, photographs and videos into a humorous, surprisingly detailed production diary. This part of the app can also sync up with the Blu-Ray film via Wi-Fi connection and act as a sort of second screen or "pop-up video" to educate you on the scene you're watching while you watch it.
So, for example, when the shouts come to "Bring Out Your Dead!" on the television, your iPad can inform you all about the pig feces and urine that was actually on the ground and in the mud, which Python troupe member Michael Palin was forced to eat 14 times due to Holy Grail co-director Terry Gilliam's insistence that they get the shot just right.
Speaking of Gilliam: On the release of the app, we talked with the lone American Python member -- who is also a legendary filmmaker in his own right, having helmed classics like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Brazil and Twelve Monkeys -- about the new iPad app and much, much more. Our talk veers wildly in a classically jolting and discombobulating Python-ish way (think "And Now For Something Completely Different"), ranging from the Holy Grail film and the iPad app, to why Gilliam finds that the iPad is better than sexual intercourse, to his rabid Apple fanboy status, to his rather deep ambivalence with the encroachment of technology like Twitter into our lives. Check out the convo below and get a sneak peek at the "Book of Holy Days" app ($4.99 in the iTunes Store) while you're at it.
Jason Gilbert: Why did you guys choose to release this app and what do you hope to accomplish with it?
Terry Gilliam: We hope to make money! Simple as that, end of conversation!
No, we're basically very green when it comes to comedy. We don't cut any of the old, and it gives people a chance to delve into the world of making the film. I actually found myself sitting there for quite a long time on the app reminding myself of all the things that we've done, which oftentimes we forget.
JG: Going through the old footage and the notebooks, was there any scene or any day in particular that really made you nostalgic?
No, the whole thing. I'm not very good at specific moments, it was just the general sense of "Shit, we did it that quickly!" I'd forgotten how many days we actually had to shoot it.
What also intrigued me was just how naïve we were. Knowing what I know now, we would never have started a project to be done that quickly with that little money. Because we just didn't know better; we just leapt into it and did whatever we had to do to get through it.
JG: When was the last time you watched it all the way through?
TG: Oh I don't know, years ago. I don't tend to watch our stuff. Once it's done it's done. It's funny what you can do when you don't know better. We set out with very high ideals and constantly had to make compromises. If Terry [Jones] and I had our way, it would've been real horses, but instead it's coconuts and that's much better, and much funnier.
JG: How close did the troupe follow the development of this app?
TG: We didn't, John Goldstone, the executive producer of the film, was really sitting on top of this. What pleased me is that it really looks like it really does involve this. There's a lot of information, a lot of detail that we handed over and it surprised me by its quality. Some of the stuff we've been doing of late has been less than brilliant as far as merchandising and stuff, so I thought this was really quality.
JG: Do you own an iPad?
TG: I do. I find them disturbingly irritating things but they're very beautiful, they're very sexy-feeling. And the fact that you can just use your fingers to do all of this stuff, and enlarge and all of these things is wonderful, but there's a side of it that makes me crazy, because it doesn't do quite what I want it do. It's not a true computer is what it isn't. And that becomes frustrating.
But the design is so sexy. And then you've got to put your iPad into a protective condom of some sort which takes away the pleasure.
JG: Oh yeah. I took my iPad out of the case a couple months ago and it's so much more fun to hold. It's just a much more pure experience.
TG: It's a very sexy feeling to it: You can just spread your fingers and think, "Whoa, expand! Whoa, make small!" There's a lot of fun to be had there. It's better than sex, actually, at my age.
JG: The iPad is?
JG: You better not show your wife this interview!
TG: Yeah, can you cut that one out? ::laughs:: It's very funny, years ago, when the first iMac came out, Apple had this thing, AppleMasters. They were 100 well-known people from all different aspects of life, selling the stuff. And I was an AppleMaster, and I said the design of the iMac was so sexy and curvy, and the plastic was so sexy, I think my wife will suspect that I'm having an affair; little does she know it's with a machine.
JG: So you've always been an Apple user?
TG: Oh yeah. I don't understand how people could use PCs. I mean, Microsoft is just ... terrible. Apple from the beginning, the operating system is just so simple and smooth and you don't have to be a techie nerd to operate the thing. It just does what you want it to do. And the design is elegant; it's just very satisfying.
And that's the problem with it. I have a big 32-inch high-def Apple screen and I find the whole experience on my computer is deeply disturbing, because it's hypnotic. Once I switch on my computer and start working, it's got me. And I can't wait to walk into another room and get out a piece of paper and a pen and start doing something, because it's like, "Wow, I'm coming from a monster."
JG: That's something that a lot of your movies seem to deal with -- our preoccupation with technology. So I suppose it's sort of consistent that you find yourself both hypnotized by your computer and that you have to get away from it with pencil and paper every once in a while.
TG: Well, it's a Damocles sword, is the problem. It does all these things for you, but you're not using muscles. My memory muscle, my brain up there, isn't getting exercise like it used to -- and that might be because it's old and I'm getting senile, but I don't think it's that. I used to remember telephone numbers. But now if it's not on my phone, it doesn't exist.
These are muscles that need exercising just as much as your arms and legs, and they don't have to be because the computer is doing the work for you.
TG: And that worries me.
JG: Do you think we're on that path where computers will just be doing more and more for us?
TG: Well, I'm sort of always worrying about the apocalypse: What happens when the electricity goes off, when batteries aren't available, when all of the technology we are dependent upon now which is electronic, is gone -- then what do we do? Like with your GPS, I wonder how many people have maps in their heads? You don't need them, because you've got maps on your mobile phones.
If I drive, I'm still working like a pathfinder. "Oh, there's a sign there that will be lit up later when I'm trying to get home and I'm lost." So I'm thinking that way rather than looking at my TomTom or whatever that is that says "Turn left here."
When we first had computers in cars telling us to turn left, what was that song? "Smack My Computer Bitch" is what I used to sing to it all the time.
We've become too dependent. I didn't have a mobile phone for years and years and years. Because I didn't want to be that accessible all the time. I want people to have the pleasure of being alone. It's the kind of thing that people seem to be forgetting, the idea of "aloneness" -- which is not the same as loneliness. Arcade Fire, in their last album, had a song "We Used To Wait." You know, you'd write a letter, and you'd wait for it to be received and however long it would take to get back. So there was a time we used to wait and waiting had its own pleasures and its own tensions and now everything has to be immediate just because it can be. You go to concerts now and people are tweeting, while the first song is still on, about how they're there and how much they're enjoying it, rather than just letting the song do the work. You can talk about it later.
JG: I don't know if you saw this story, but there's a movie theater in America that's considering putting in Tweet Seats, which would be...
TG: Oh, fuck! -- That's terrible! It really is! Because people aren't experiencing the moment. They're already commenting on the moment before it's finished.
Below, check out a bunch of shots what you can expect from the "Monty Python: Holy Book of Days" iPad app, available for $4.99 in the iTunes Store.
You can explore the movie in one of two ways: In the order it was filmed ("The Holy Book of Days") or in the order the scenes appear in the movie ("The Holy Chapters"). With Blu-Ray sync (it's that little dragon there), the iPad app automatically shows information on your iPad about the scene you're watching from "The Holy Book of Days" as the scene plays on your TV.
Information about the film, based on how the order in which it was filmed. Here's the intro screen for Day 1.
Python mainstay Michael Palin writes a detailed diary of each day of shooting.
For each scene, you can launch the script, and see what was cut and added at the last moment.
A sliding menu pops up from the bottom for easy navigation through days or scenes.
You can also go scene by scene. Here's the intro page for the famous Black Knight scene.
From there, you can watch outtakes (above, Michael Palin eats mud in the "Bring Out Your Dead!" scene).
The app also features several scenes of cast members revisiting the Scottish locations where different scenes were shot.
A production still: "Are you saying coconuts migrate?"
Another production still, from the Black Knight scene.
Terry Gilliam, Monty Python and the Holy Grail co-director. Hey, we just interviewed him!