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  1. #121
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    As I am reading Powell's own book now, I am starting to understand his view of Americans and why this sequence is so effective and charming.



    It is interesting to me that this most British (and, I think (correct me if I am wrong) most English) of directors uses his extraordinary imaginative gifts to enter into the mind of an American, and within a film that is dedicated to capturing the spirit and history of England - and to potray him with such touching accuracy. The problems with the portrayal are entirely on the surface; idiom and nuance and, especially, humor are so unique to nations - and even within nations. The mistakes there are trivial. Pressburger was a Hungarian writing in English, and portraying yet another nation from within, and did it with such care and discernment.



    What masters they were.
    I certainly think so

    And what an unusual pairing. Who'd have thought it would work?



    Powell was a classic Englishman, the son of a Kent farmer, with ancestors on his mother's side being Shropshire farmers. But he was a voracious reader as a child and with that, and his love of the movies, he certainly knew that there was a world beyond these shores.



    And when his father got him the job working for Rex Ingram in France he was right where he wanted to be, and needed to be. The exposure to all those European and American films and people gave him something that was quite unusual for an Englishman at the time, a world view.



    Then there was Emeric. The son of a Jewish farm manager in Hungary. The nearby town where he went to school, Temesvar, Hungary became Timisoara, Romania with the settlement of territories at the end of WWI. So he was en exile from an early age. He had to learn a different language to complete his schooling and so going to University in Germany and having to learn another language for that didn't seem too much of a jump. But due to various things he couldn't complete his time at University and after a short spell back at home he went to Berlin to try to make a living as a writer. He was very poor for a while there, sleeping rough and often going hungry. But then he sold his first story to a German newspaper and he began to make a living as a writer in this foreign language.



    He then got a job at the UFA studios, the biggest in Europe, writing scripts and as a script doctor helping other people tighten up their scripts. But when the Nazis came to power in 1932 he was told that he'd have to leave UFA and he soon decides it'd be best if he left Germany.



    So he went to Paris and after a short while he learnt French well enough to write some film scripts there as well. But the Nazis followed him there so he made the move to England.



    Emeric was getting used to learning different languages by now so he even managed to learn English (no mean feat for a non-native speaker) well enough to work as a scriptwriter. Working for Alexander Korda he was brought in on a project to rewrite a script for The Spy in Black and that's where he met Michael Powell.



    So you had the very English Englishman with the world view and the well travelled, exiled, Hungarian who had the advantage of the outsider, looking in - and they made the perfect match



    And remember that even though he grew up in and around Canterbury, Michael always said that A Canterbury Tale was much more Emeric's film than his. He said that any failings in it were due to his not really understanding what Emeric was saying in the script. Although Michael knew the locations and could make a visually appealing film he always felt he didn't put the story across as well as he should have done.



    Steve

  2. #122
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Then in the scene where he first meets Colpepper and talks about watching movies in every town, Colpepper is slightly patronizing and says how sad it would be if he returned to the US and said all he saw of England were films.



    Bob picks up on the condescension, but also on the fairness of the comment. This is just right: his face barely registers the comment, but he changes his tone slightly.



    But he does NOT apologize. He tells Colpepper gently "You've got me all wrong. I know there's a cathedral..."



    That is precisely how an American of that type would respond. He is patient with the condescension, but he is shrewd and observant and makes it politely clear that Colpepper is, perhaps, judging an American book by its cover.



    It is so perceptive and well done that I said "Oh!" out loud while watching it the first time.
    Beautifully done, isn't it? It always makes me smile.

    And Colpeper's response to Bob's "I know there's a cathedral", "You can't miss it, it's just behind the cinema" is perfectly delivered.



    As you say, it's slightly condescending, but in a friendly, joking way. Colpeper has already decided that he likes Bob so feels able to tease him.



    As if anyone could miss the cathedral in Canterbury



    Steve

  3. #123
    Super Moderator Country: England
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    Yes, I see that I had been reading about the disappointing reception of "A Canterbury Tale" and the controversy surrounding "Colonel Blimp" and I made an incorrect generalization. I am reading through Michael Powell's autobiography now (difficult to put down) and I can see how many of their films were successful at the time.
    I was in the BFI Library last week, and have copied their cuttings files of all the contemporary reviews of ACT, Blimp and IKWIG. It will be a few days, but I'll type them up, Steve will put them on the PnP site, and we'll let you know when they're ready....

  4. #124
    Super Moderator Country: England
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    I was in the BFI Library last week, and have copied their cuttings files of all the contemporary reviews of ACT, Blimp and IKWIG. It will be a few days, but I'll type them up, Steve will put them on the PnP site, and we'll let you know when they're ready....
    As promised, now available for perusal on the PnP website (Thanks Steve) contemporary reviews of ACT from around 20 trade, national and regional papers....

    Contemporary reviews of "A Canterbury Tale (1944)"

  5. #125
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    And I hope that those people that said they were put off by John Sweet's accent will also read those and note how many of the critics in 1944 thought he was wonderful, his accent and his acting, and prophesied great things for him in Hollywood.



    It was his 92nd birthday recently and I emailed him a birthday greeting that included some of those reviews with a link to the rest of them.



    He did try acting professionally when he had finished doing his bit for freedom and democracy. But it didn't work out, so he went back to teaching and really enjoyed the life he led.



    Steve

  6. #126
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    See John Sweet in Canterbury, 2000. There was a special screening of the film on a wet Thursday morning, but still about 300 people turned up. John and Sheila had their Red Carpet moment as they were welcomed into the theatre.



    The next day we took him back around the locations where he'd made the film all those years before. It was while he was in the area that Nick Burton (now sadly deceased) did the interview on the Criterion DVD. We had plenty of chances for some very nice chats with John and I'm still in email contact with him.



    Steve
    The interviewer is dead? I'm sorry. I just watched the interview again last night and was impressed by his respect and thoughtful questions. He must have died at a relatively young age.





    name='Steve Crook']And I hope that those people that said they were put off by John Sweet's accent will also read those and note how many of the critics in 1944 thought he was wonderful, his accent and his acting, and prophesied great things for him in Hollywood.
    I have just read through them. All of the actors received fine reviews, but Sweet was singled out in several of them.



    It was interesting to read Powell's comments in his own book. He noted that Sweet probably had a happier and more fulfilling life as a teacher in Ohio than he would have as an actor. Of course, I would have enjoyed seeing him in other films.



    It was his 92nd birthday recently and I emailed him a birthday greeting that included some of those reviews with a link to the rest of them.



    He did try acting professionally when he had finished doing his bit for freedom and democracy. But it didn't work out, so he went back to teaching and really enjoyed the life he led.
    "A life well lived" 92! God bless him.



    How glad I am that I found this forum.

  7. #127
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    The interviewer is dead? I'm sorry. I just watched the interview again last night and was impressed by his respect and thoughtful questions. He must have died at a relatively young age.




    It was quite tragic. He had a brain hemorrhage and died about 6 months later, aged just 56.



    Nick Burton was the head of the department of media at Canterbury Christ Church University. He was one of the good guys and will be sorely missed.



    It was Nick who, when they decided to name all the buildings at CCC, insisted that the building housing the media centre must be called The Powell Building. They tried to get him to choose a name beginning with some other letter of the alphabet to fit in with their naming scheme. But Nick was insistent that there could only be one possible name for a building to do with the teaching of anything related to cinema, in Canterbury. So The Powell Building it became.



    There was a big opening ceremony back in October 1999. Thelma Schoonmaker & Sheila Sim did the official opening and there were lots of other interesting people there. As well as Nick, that's when I first met Columba Powell. Thelma gave a very good illustrated lecture showing how P&P films were absorbed by and influenced Marty Scorsese. That's also when Paul Tritton told us all that he'd contacted John Sweet and he played an audio greeting from John.



    Nick also instigated the Powell Research Centre which has managed to interview quite a few of the people involved in making the films. It's a useful exercise for students, sending them out (with a bit of supervision) to interview someone. As well as that Nick inspired quite a few of the lecturers at CCC to make P&P (or just P) the subject of their research. We saw the results of some of this at the Michael Powell Centenary Conference at Bangor (North Wales, not Maine) where 4 papers were presented by people from CCC.



    There was also the wonderful Michael Powell Festival in 2004 where as well as screening a lot of the films, they also set up an exhibition in a gallery in Canterbury. A glorious 8 days in October 2004



    I remember how, just before that Festival, Nick came on our ACT walk and we persuaded (bullied) him and Ian Christie into taking the parts of Colpeper & Bob Johnson in a re-creation of the discussion about the merits of cinema - in Fordwich Town Hall. For a pair of high powered academics they put on a good performance.



    Ah, so many happy memories. Thanks Nick.



    The University has instigated an annual Nick Burton Memorial Lecture, the first of which was given by Thelma last December. Just after they made her an honorary Fellow of the University



    Steve

  8. #128
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    It's nice to see so many votes for A Canterbury Tale in the Desert Island D(VD)iscs thread



    It really was a slow burner that one. It wasn't a big hit when it was first released. It did OK, but wasn't a big hit.



    I think that was because by the time it was released, D-Day had happened and was seen to have been a success (which was by no means guaranteed, it was a gamble) and so everyone knew that the end of the war was just a matter of time. They had other things to concern them, like finishing off the war and wondering what to do in the immediate post-war years.



    It's only now when, despite our busy lives, we have the leisure time to reflect on the ideas put forward in the film. That we should be aware of our past although that doesn't mean that we have to live in it. We should look to the future, but be aware of where we've come from and the inheritance we have.





    Or do people like it for totally different reasons?



    Steve

  9. #129
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    I'm full of cold at the mo so I watched it yesterday again.

    I love it, the story was always a bit silly but I love the look of it and the cast was pretty great too. Brilliant casting a real American Sgt in the role of Bob Johnson.

    I think he's still alive?

    Have always wanted to visit Canterbury myself to have a look at some of the locations.



    (That's probably a separate thread!)

  10. #130
    Super Moderator Country: England
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    And a separate Month - traditionally August Bank Holiday; the Powell and Pressburger Appreciation Society (That would be Steve Crook there) run the location walks and always flag it up when plans are finalised; plenty of like-minded folk will be there.

  11. #131
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    I'm full of cold at the mo so I watched it yesterday again.

    I love it, the story was always a bit silly but I love the look of it and the cast was pretty great too. Brilliant casting a real American Sgt in the role of Bob Johnson.

    I think he's still alive?

    Have always wanted to visit Canterbury myself to have a look at some of the locations.



    (That's probably a separate thread!)
    John Sweet is still alive, or he was fairly recently when I last heard from him & his wife. He's a lovely man, he really is "Sweet by name and sweet by nature".



    Get hold of a copy of Paul Tritton's book A Canterbury Tale - Memories of a Classic Wartime Movie. It's the essential companion if you do ever manage to get to the Canterbury area, or even if you don't. It details all the kown locations (which is the vast majority of them) complete with map references and "then & now" photos. It has lots of interviews with cast and crew members or the families of those no longer with us and loads more information about it.



    We do an ACT Location Walk on the last Sunday in August every year.



    The story is silly and not all that important, well, not the glueman part anyway. It's the underlying story that's more important and the whole look and feel of it and the mood of the film. Just magical



    Steve

  12. #132
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    Brilliant!

    darn the date though! I run the YMCA canteen (a period WW2 canteen) at RAF Twinwood Farm that weekend every year.



    Must look out for that book though. Fascinating!



    Yes, agreed the story of the glueman is silly but as you say-it's the underlying story that really gets me. I love it when Alison finds out that her fiancee is still alive and starts pulling all the moth ridden clothes from the caravan. Wonderful moment...

  13. #133
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    And a separate Month - traditionally August Bank Holiday; the Powell and Pressburger Appreciation Society (That would be Steve Crook there) run the location walks and always flag it up when plans are finalised; plenty of like-minded folk will be there.
    Actually I got into trouble for saying it's on the August Bank Holiday, it led to a bit of confusion this year. The Bank Holiday is the Monday so when the Monday is on the first of September (like it was this year) then the last Sunday in August isn't the same as August Bank Holiday Sunday



    It usually is on the Bank Holiday weekend which makes it very easy to drive down to the Canterbury area. On a Bank Holiday weekend, most people go away on the Friday or Saturday and come back on the Monday. But hardly anyone travels on the Sunday.



    So now I'll always try to make it clear that the walks are held on the last Sunday in August



    Steve

  14. #134
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    Wonderful film, and I've always been convinced that Stanley Kubrick cribbed the opening for 2001.

  15. #135
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Wonderful film, and I've always been convinced that Stanley Kubrick cribbed the opening for 2001.
    So have most people, although it's never been confirmed. However, recent research suggests that Powell knew Arthur C. Clarke so it might well have done via him.



    Steve

  16. #136
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    I'm amazed by the large body of critical work about Kubrick, 2001 and specifically *that* shot, that never mention Powell. Is it some kind of conspiracy?



    So have most people, although it's never been confirmed. However, recent research suggests that Powell knew Arthur C. Clarke so it might well have done via him.



    Steve

  17. #137
    Senior Member Country: Europe Bernardo's Avatar
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    I am surprised at the plaudits awarded in this thread. The photography was superb and the value as a social history document is useful BUT. Do you not think that the production suffered from delusions of grandeur 'cos Chaucer it is not?

  18. #138
    Super Moderator Country: England
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    Looking for a two-minute argument?? You'll either get a stunned silence or Nuclear War....

  19. #139
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    I'm amazed by the large body of critical work about Kubrick, 2001 and specifically *that* shot, that never mention Powell. Is it some kind of conspiracy?
    Or just ignorance of where he got the idea from?

    Many people assume that every idea by their favourite director is original. That's rarely the case.



    Steve

  20. #140
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    I am surprised at the plaudits awarded in this thread. The photography was superb and the value as a social history document is useful BUT. Do you not think that the production suffered from delusions of grandeur 'cos Chaucer it is not?
    An odd thing to say. Chaucer it was not trying to be

    In what way do you think it suffered from such delusions?

    And you say "production", but do you just mean the script?



    Steve

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