Though the title of this series is “Shocking Blocking,” I haven’t described any blocking that actually shocked me when I first saw it… until now. I was 15 when Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life played in Boston; it was rated “R”, so my friend John Dooley’s dad took us. The movie was a surrealist return, for Monty Python, after Holy Grail and Life of Brian, to (formless) form. So by the time the scene “Part VII: Death” arrived, my frontal lobe was already a wreck. Sensory information was arriving willy-nilly from my thalamus to my fore-brain; my dopamine-sensitive neurons had given up the struggle to regulate it. Once it was announced that Arthur Charles Herbert Runcie MacAdam Jarrett (Graham Chapman), a man convicted of “making gratuitous sexist jokes in a film,” was to be killed in a manner of his choosing, I was prepared for anything to happen. Anything, that is, except for a non-compact topological group of bare-breasted women in G-strings and — why? — crash helmets! Later that year, the movie was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival; for the blocking in this scene alone, it richly deserved the honor.
An occasional series analyzing some of the author’s favorite moments in the positioning or movement of actors in a movie.
THIRTIES (1934–43): It Happened One Night (1934) | The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) | The Guv’nor (1935) | The 39 Steps (1935) | Young and Innocent (1937) | The Lady Vanishes (1938) | Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) | The Big Sleep (1939) | The Little Princess (1939) | Gone With the Wind (1939) | His Girl Friday (1940)
FORTIES (1944–53): The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946) | The Asphalt Jungle (1950) | The African Queen (1951)
FIFTIES (1954–63): A Bucket of Blood (1959) | Beach Party (1963)
SIXTIES (1964–73): For Those Who Think Young (1964) | Thunderball (1965) | Clambake (1967) | Bonnie and Clyde (1967) | Madigan (1968) | Wild in the Streets (1968) | Barbarella (1968) | Harold and Maude (1971) | The Mack (1973) | The Long Goodbye (1973)
SEVENTIES (1974–83): Les Valseuses (1974) | Eraserhead (1976) | The Bad News Bears (1976) | Breaking Away (1979) | Rock’n'Roll High School (1979) | Escape from Alcatraz (1979) | Apocalypse Now (1979) | Caddyshack (1980) | Stripes (1981) | Blade Runner (1982) | Tender Mercies (1983) | Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)
EIGHTIES (1984–93): Repo Man (1984) | Buckaroo Banzai (1984) | Raising Arizona (1987) | RoboCop (1987) | Goodfellas (1990) | Candyman (1992) | Dazed and Confused (1993) |
NINETIES (1994–2003): Pulp Fiction (1994) | The Fifth Element (1997)
OUGHTS (2004–13): Nacho Libre (2006) | District 9 (2009)
Joshua Glenn’s most recent books (2012) are UNBORED: THE ESSENTIAL FIELD GUIDE TO SERIOUS FUN (with Elizabeth Foy Larsen); and SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS: 100 EXTRAORDINARY STORIES ABOUT ORDINARY THINGS (with Rob Walker).