Monday, June 10, 2013

Jones' Crusades


From one ex-Python to another, I thought it would be appropriate this week to highlight the first effort by Terry Jones, crazy man, brilliant director, jack of all trades, certified flake of the first order and probably my favorite Python ... but really, can there be a favorite?

Those savvy enough to watch the last doc with Michael Palin will notice that Terry Jones has a cameo as one of the 'reform club.'  It's tempting to say that Jones was jealous, but the BBC being such a small house, with a willingness to make so many docs, probably the producers were tripping over themselves to get to Jones after Palin's success rather than the other way around.  Either way, Crusades is the documentary that kicked off a set of others by Jones, mostly passable, largely silly and somewhat catered to the dumber people of Britain.

Still, there's something I like about Crusades, even if I can't put my finger on it.


There's an odd tactic in the use of drama, there are a few too many talking heads in some places, and every now and then the doc resorts to the most annoying human interactions.  Still, the content itself is something rare and elusive, and for that reason I've included it on the list - it attempts, unlike SO many other documentaries, to give a chronological account of the Crusades.  It doesn't hop about.  It describes this happening, and then this, and then this, in the order it happened ... thus providing a clear, comprehensive overview of the actual Crusades, as opposed to a lot of shit testifying to what the producers were willing to research.

This need to produce works of history as though we were throwing paint randomly at a wall, as though there were some pattern to witness in such action, drives me up the wall.  I had a prof in university who consistently did this, to the point where one grew to understand that without doing the reading, you were lost.  Jones and Crusades do not demand that you do the reading.

Yes, it's simplified (heck, it's only four episodes) and it's hokey in places ... but it's quite honest about the grisly brutality of the events involved.  It does not hold back.  There's some marvelous demonstrations and insights that make the show worthwhile.


The gentle reader stands a chance to learn something about combat, interaction with the church, the funding of expeditions, difficulties in maintaining an army and so on.  With any luck, as a primer it will encourage one to read more into the period, having now gotten a solid framework for the order of events.

Jones wants the viewer to laugh, and he goes all out for it.  The man must be something to know in real life ... more than his time in Python, his documentaries give insight for that.

And now, a nice fortress:

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