Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1943)

From the outset I was thinking there was no way I would like this more than Black Narcissus, but by the time it got to the passages about Candy’s German friend Theo, perhaps the film’s most sympathetic character, I realized that this was not only so much more than a propaganda film, but extremely gutsy (the British government largely disapproved of it). There is a sometimes veiled, sometimes clearly exhibited skepticism about the British military and government, and while the superficial tragedy may be that the honor and by-the-books approach of the British was becoming lost in the fight against the Nazis, as Candy remained fixed and unchanging, perhaps there is a hidden tragedy that this notion of British manners and rules was always an illusion. The scene in which Theo stands out as more experienced and as having more foresight than the entire mass of British politicians and generals is pretty audacious. Though Colonel Blimp is a fictional character, the film has the feel of a biopic, the irony being that this man feels more real than Patton, La Motta, and Mishima put together due to the Archers' frank and intimate approach to studying his life; rarely did they feel the need to make him ‘provocatively’ enigmatic or eccentric. I was taken aback by how overwhelming the ending was, how surprisingly gentle and transient the shot of a leaf floating in a pool of water when compared to the comic and theatrical extravagance of the rest of the film, and the resulting feeling that the viewer really has experienced the life of this man in full.

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