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A CANTERBURY TALE

Director: MICHAEL POWELL & EMERIC PRESSBURGER

124 minutes| U.K.| 1944| Black and White| 35mm


This was the successor to the 1943 Technicolor epic The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. Though less successful at the time with both critics and public, A Canterbury Tale is, arguably, the supreme achievement not only of Powell and Pressburger, but of British cinema altogether. Powell was revisiting, via the wonderfully luminous location cinematography of Erwin Hillier, his own youth in rural Kent; Pressburger was reworking, through the figure of the American serviceman preparing for D-Day, his consistent theme of the crossing of national boundaries. From the start – a match-cut across the centuries that anticipates the bone-to-spaceship cut of Kubrick’s 2001 – to an ending which brings together its protagonists in Canterbury Cathedral, the film persuasively dramatises its makers’ vision of ‘the values we were fighting for’, and specifically their ‘crusade against materialism’. What could be more topical for 2010? It’s an intensely romantic film, without even a kiss.

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