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  1. #201
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fellwanderer View Post
    Sheila Sim of course - I'd even checked her dob to see how close she was to my mother. Fingers work faster than my brain! Same goes for WRAF!

    I used "The Pilgrim Road" in italics deliberately as the best known route is The Pilgrims' Way - which was the one I was meaning and was certainly the route Chaucer and P&P were using.
    But even for The Pilgrim's Way there are a few variations. The one followed by Chaucer's pilgrims started in London and went through Rochester. The one best known as The Pilgrim's Way went from Winchester and along the old drover's routes along the North Downs.

    The scenes we see of the Chaucerian Pilgrims at the start of A Canterbury Tale were filmed at St. Martha's Hill near Guildford. Much of the traditional Pilgrim's Way is now part of the modern road network and isn't a very interesting (or particularly safe) walk. The Ramblers' Association now advise people follow St. Swithun's Way instead from Winchester to Farnham and then the North Downs Way from Farnham to Canterbury

    Steve

  2. #202
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flynn View Post
    i have to agree a great film worth watching many times over.
    you should get criterion collection of A Canterbury Tale.
    with Steve showing the locations used in the film.
    Or come and join us - the last Sunday in August every year

    Steve

  3. #203
    Senior Member Country: UK flynn's Avatar
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    i meant to go. but something came up.so it slipped my mind.i must go next year.

  4. #204
    Senior Member Country: England Santonix's Avatar
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    Do come along next year, it's well worth it.

  5. #205
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    It is the most beautiful and moving British film I have seen. I have lost count of how many times I have seen it now and each time it has the same effect, from the opening bells.

  6. #206
    Senior Member Country: UK flynn's Avatar
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    i will do Santonix.i was disappointed when i realised i had missed it.

  7. #207
    Senior Member Country: England Santonix's Avatar
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    Great news flynn, I shall look forward to meeting you in Canterbury.

  8. #208
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    My favourite film: A Canterbury Tale

    Xan Brooks continues our writers' favourite films series by confessing devotion to Michael Powell's A Canterbury Tale


    I first watched A Canterbury Tale with my father, nearly 20 years ago. He warned me that while he liked it, most people did not. It was too flawed, too rum, it didn't hang together. So we sat in the lounge and saw the hawk turn into the fighter plane and the trainload of pilgrims pull into Kent and the first, scurrying escape of the "glue-man", who pours adhesive into the hair of the girls who date the soldiers � and about half an hour in, my dad hit the pause button and asked if I maybe wanted to watch something else instead. "No, it's OK, I like it," I muttered, because it's always easier to say that we like things as opposed to what I really wanted to say, which was that I loved it, that I was choked by it and that, in that moment, I had no desire to watch anything else, ever again. And that would he please, for the love of God, hit the play button right now � now! � and then leave the remote control alone for the rest of the picture.

    I revisited A Canterbury Tale again a few months back and was relieved to find it just as magical as ever. This ensures that it has briefly shuffled to the top of a stack of my other "favourite films" (there are about 20 or 30 of them; it's not the most exclusive club), though I still hesitate to shove it to the fore, because it's a thing of such fragile, broken glory, like some tubercular saint, that I hate the thought of people laughing at it. Even its director, Michael Powell, wasn't especially fond of A Canterbury Tale. He felt that Emeric Pressburger's script was at fault and that this dragged the film off course, whereas I'd argue that the cracks are what give it that crucial layer of strangeness and that the rambling detours lead to the richest, wildest rabbit-holes of all.

    It was shot in 1943, in Powell's home county, during the dog days of the second world war and charts the fortunes of three modern-day pilgrims (land girl, British soldier, US sergeant) en-route to Canterbury but waylaid for a few days in the neighbouring village of Chillingbourne. None of them want to be there; they would rather be at home, except they are so tired, lonely and saddle-sore that they scarcely know where home is anymore. The film throws them together and has them solve a local mystery. Then it cuts the ties and turns them loose, batting the pilgrims onward to Canterbury where they wander the bombsites and blank spaces of the town centre; their worlds a mess, their futures uncertain. Eventually, against all the odds, they each receive a blessing.

    A Canterbury Tale may be the most loving and tender film about England ever made. It's a picture that's steeped in nature, in thrall to myth and history; a re-affirmation of the English character, customs and countryside from a time when many viewers may have wondered whether this underpinning had been kicked clean away. But the film's genius lies in the way it connects these big, sweeping themes to the intimate, the eccentric and the everyday. It's the human details that give it life, and the film is always beautifully played � particularly by Eric Portman as the rigid local magistrate and Dennis Price as a hard-bitten soldier who refuses to name the thing he loves.
    A Canterbury Tale

    On beginning this blog, I was going to write that the story of A Canterbury Tale is a bit like the legend of the Arthurian knights asleep on the hillside, waiting to be called forth at the hour of greatest need. But that's not quite right, because the film implicitly suggests that there is no hillside, no sleeping knights, and no magical horn to call them forth. The only world is the one we're in, bashed about and bent out of shape, and the only heroes the people around us: frail and fearful, sometimes misguided, and coping as best they can. But if we can learn to trust them, and invite them to trust us back, then we may just be OK. More than that, we might even be blessed; rattling through the ruins to uncover miracles in derelict caravans and hear the voice of angels in the train whistle's yelp.

  9. #209
    Senior Member Country: Europe
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Crook View Post
    It's a story that could be re-worked for modern times, but what is the story? The war doesn't really have all that much to do with it. Maybe that people are thought to be "lost by enemy action" and as an excuse for people to be uprooted from their homes and moved to other parts of the country, or to other countries. The whodunnit is quickly solved and becomes a whydunnit. The core of the story is about getting close to your ancestors, to be aware of your history without necessarily living in the past.


    But could the style be re-created in a modern film? The slowing down to the pace of the seasons, the innocence of children's games. The long languid looks at the countryside and the clouds on a summer's day?


    There are no big stars in it, and that's good. For 3 of the 4 leading players it was their first significant role in a film. For 2 of them it was the first film they had ever worked on, and one was just an amateur actor. Many of the supporting cast were also amateurs.


    Some people do have problems appreciating this film, until they adjust to its pace.


    Steve
    In my view, it just wouldn't work if recreated now - or 35 years ago. It came from a more innocent age, even if it was at one of the darkest moments in our history.

    I've always thought the war was an important element as Culpepper strove to bring home the importance of an understanding of the past and what they were fighting for.

    But whatever, a masterpiece that I shall watch again tomorrow if the weather is inclement.

  10. #210
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fellwanderer View Post
    In my view, it just wouldn't work if recreated now - or 35 years ago. It came from a more innocent age, even if it was at one of the darkest moments in our history.

    I've always thought the war was an important element as Culpepper strove to bring home the importance of an understanding of the past and what they were fighting for.

    But whatever, a masterpiece that I shall watch again tomorrow if the weather is inclement.
    But that applies at any time, not just in wartime when you're physically fighting for it. An understanding of the past is always important. If you don't know how you got here, how can you know where you're going?

    But a knowledge of and an understanding of the past doesn't mean that you have to live in the past. Things change, times change, people change.

    Steve

  11. #211
    Senior Member Country: UK didi-5's Avatar
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    I'm not sure a version of A Canterbury Tale made now would work. But then I wouldn't want to see a new version, the old one is just fine. Almost perfect in fact. It instantly became one of my favourite films on first viewing. I'm not sure I totally understand it, but maybe that doesn't matter. It has so many fine scenes, fine performances, and is beautifully written and shot.

  12. #212
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by didi-5 View Post
    I'm not sure a version of A Canterbury Tale made now would work. But then I wouldn't want to see a new version, the old one is just fine. Almost perfect in fact. It instantly became one of my favourite films on first viewing. I'm not sure I totally understand it, but maybe that doesn't matter. It has so many fine scenes, fine performances, and is beautifully written and shot.
    No Powell & Pressburger film could or should ever be re-made, they are all perfect as they are

    A few people have done other works (stage plays, radio & TV plays, even musicals) based on some of them. None of them have been a huge success even though they're very interesting.

    Although they have also acted as an influence on or inspiration for a lot of other film-makers. But few of them have come close to any individual P&P film and none of them have got close to producing a body of work similar to what P&P managed

    Steve

  13. #213
    Senior Member Country: Europe
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    Quote Originally Posted by didi-5 View Post
    I'm not sure a version of A Canterbury Tale made now would work. But then I wouldn't want to see a new version, the old one is just fine. Almost perfect in fact. It instantly became one of my favourite films on first viewing. I'm not sure I totally understand it, but maybe that doesn't matter. It has so many fine scenes, fine performances, and is beautifully written and shot.
    I agree - it was very much of its time.

    Of course, any idea can be reworked to fit a new age but I just don't see the concept behind ACT being a success today - it's too much a "Me! Me! Me!" society.

    At least I enjoyed it again this morning before going out to enjoy the sunshine and now to watch the best film ever made specifically for television

  14. #214
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    Deserved bump for a beautiful film - still as much a vision or dream as a film for me.

  15. #215
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TimR View Post
    Deserved bump for a beautiful film - still as much a vision or dream as a film for me.
    We held the annual location walk yesterday. A good turn out for a 68 year old B&W film that wasn't a massive hit when it was first released. It was ahead of its time and most of the population had other things to think about in 1944 - like the liberation of Europe

    I finished the tour by reading out Colpeper's speech from his lecture:
    "Well there are more ways than one of getting close to your ancestors. Follow the old road and as you walk, think of them, and the old England. They climbed Chillingbourne Hill, just as you did, they sweated and paused for breath, just as you did today. And when you see the bluebells in the spring and the wild thyme, the broom and the heather, you're only seeing what their eyes saw. Ford the same rivers, the same birds are singing. When you lie flat on your back, and rest, and watch the clouds sailing as I often do, you're so close to those other people, that you can hear the thrumming of the hoofs of their horses, the sound of the wheels on the road, and their laughter, and talk, and the music of the instruments they carried. And when I turn the bend in the road, where they too, saw the towers of Canterbury, I feel I've only to turn my head, to see them on the road behind me."



    It seemed appropriate as we'd just sweated our way up Chillingboure Hill, pausing for breath, listening to the birds, checking the broom & heather

    Steve

  16. #216
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Crook View Post
    We held the annual location walk yesterday. A good turn out for a 68 year old B&W film that wasn't a massive hit when it was first released. It was ahead of its time and most of the population had other things to think about in 1944 - like the liberation of Europe

    I finished the tour by reading out Colpeper's speech from his lecture:
    "Well there are more ways than one of getting close to your ancestors. Follow the old road and as you walk, think of them, and the old England. They climbed Chillingbourne Hill, just as you did, they sweated and paused for breath, just as you did today. And when you see the bluebells in the spring and the wild thyme, the broom and the heather, you're only seeing what their eyes saw. Ford the same rivers, the same birds are singing. When you lie flat on your back, and rest, and watch the clouds sailing as I often do, you're so close to those other people, that you can hear the thrumming of the hoofs of their horses, the sound of the wheels on the road, and their laughter, and talk, and the music of the instruments they carried. And when I turn the bend in the road, where they too, saw the towers of Canterbury, I feel I've only to turn my head, to see them on the road behind me."

    .....

    It seemed appropriate as we'd just sweated our way up Chillingboure Hill, pausing for breath, listening to the birds, checking the broom & heather

    Steve
    Oh, that is very nice - looks like a real pleasure.

    Don't you find August a bit warm for the walk? Have you thought about waiting until late September/early October? I know that you folks rarely get as much heat and humidity as we do, but it can be hot.

  17. #217
    Senior Member Country: England Westengland's Avatar
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    Thanks for posting this, as with much else on Britmovie that you are due thanks for.

    I had a talk with a neighbour a few days ago - it was one of those really-get-to-know-each-other-after-sometime-as-neighbours ones. We touched on what Colpeper/Pressburger (+Powell?) is referring to here. I mentioned how its possible to follow medieval charters (written grants of land that describe the boundary of the land granted, for the benefit of foreign Britmoviers) and to see even small landmarks today that are over one thousand years old.

    As an example, for the Britmovie members living in Bristol - there is a famous Old English charter for part of what is now central Bristol that mentions at one point a collection of yew trees - and at the site today (just) are...a collection of yew trees (the last time I checked - they could have been removed for all-too-familiar reasons). Again, there was a television programme broadcast some years ago - I think it was an episode of one of Michael Wood's outdoor history series - that I remember quoted an ancient charter's description of a stream with a blackthorn bush growing by it and then showed, at the site now...a stream with a blackthorn bush growing by it.

    Something like those examples are difficult to describe at length - you either get it or you don't - my neighbour, referring to some of our other neighbours and some of the other topics we discussed (FYI, two and a quarter hours nonstop, regardless of it raining by the bus stop we'd got off by), said these things "would blow their minds" (he's a Fifties child like me, so we grew up in the Sixties and Seventies ). So the fact that A Canterbury Tale is about that, as well as many other things too (it being a P&P film) is another reason to recommend it to others and see again yourself.

    I can use this reply to say something that I guess others have said, before: (referring to the opening sequence of A Canterbury Tale) The Canterbury Tales by Powell and Pressburger: if only...

  18. #218
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TimR View Post
    Oh, that is very nice - looks like a real pleasure.

    Don't you find August a bit warm for the walk? Have you thought about waiting until late September/early October? I know that you folks rarely get as much heat and humidity as we do, but it can be hot.
    No, this is England. It rarely gets very hot

    Actually, the public holiday at the end of August is the only one when we usually get some decent weather. It usually rains on the other public holidays

    But we have to do the A Canterbury Tale location walk on the last Sunday in August - because that's the weekend when it was set

    Steve

  19. #219
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Westengland, that's the joy of location hunting, or one of them. After 60+ years quite a lot has probably changed. Some building will have been pulled down or extended. New building may have been erected. Some trees may have died or been uprooted, other trees may have grown. Roads may have been widened or even have their routes changed. But hills don't tend to move much

    But the main joy is when you find something that is still very recognisable. A lot of the locations from this film in the villages and countryside around Canterbury are like that. Canterbury itself has changed quite a lot. The Luftwaffe ha a go at redesigning it, but the city council did more damage since the war. But even there, there's a lot that is still recognisable from the film

    However, my prize find was when I was exploring Saunton Sands, the beach where David Niven is washed ashore in A Matter of Life and Death. There are still extensive sand dunes behind the beach, which is in a big bay. I had just about worked out where they filmed from by lining up on the headlands. I turned round to look at the dunes - and a black Labrador ran down towards me - just like in the film. Sometimes the magic just works


    "Oh, I'd always hoped there would be dogs."

    Steve

  20. #220
    GRAEME
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    Hold on, Steve! Are you sure that isn't the Kentish Panther??? I think the police/coast guard/tabloids/24hr rolling news channels should be put on red alert with another moment's delay!

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