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  1. #141
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    Well yes, you're right of course. The reason I tend to shy away from it as a theory, however, is how scary it is. For a film critic I'd assume Powell to be fairly base level stuff - easily one of the top 5 British directors, with arguments for a number 1 spot, even. How is someone that's not even seen something so basic even qualified to write about film? Or is that just me being snobbish?



    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

  2. #142
    Senior Member Country: Great Britain
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    This is a near-perfect film. It would be in my top ten, possibly even my top three.



    However, I do have two niggles.



    I first saw it on TV in the 70s and for years after raved about it to anyone who would listen (and many who wouldn't), especially the opening sequence and its transition into the modern day, with the hawk getting higher and smaller, and then lower and bigger when suddenly you realise that it's turned into a Spitfire. Superb! But when I finally saw it again more than a decade later, I noticed that the bird/plane metamorphosis is actually rather clunky. It's poorly edited. Surely even before computers it could have been done a lot more smoothly? Why didn't Powell ensure that it was better?



    I can probably be accused of applying 21st century sensiblities to a 1940s film, but does anyone else find the scene where the three main characters meet and mock a mentally handicapped person ('Are you by any chance the village idiot?') almost unwatchable? Otherwise in every other respect it's a deeply humane and gentle film, but this scene is barbaric. Just a few miles away across the Channel 'village idiots' were being rounded up and quietly disposed of; making fun of them isn't as bad, of course, but it's part of the same attitude. Pressburger would have been treated like this himself (rounded up, not just mocked) had he stayed in mainland Europe. I can't understand how he could write such an inhumane scene. Or am I just taking it much too seriously?

  3. #143
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    This is a near-perfect film. It would be in my top ten, possibly even my top three.



    However, I do have two niggles.



    I first saw it on TV in the 70s and for years after raved about it to anyone who would listen (and many who wouldn't), especially the opening sequence and its transition into the modern day, with the hawk getting higher and smaller, and then lower and bigger when suddenly you realise that it's turned into a Spitfire. Superb! But when I finally saw it again more than a decade later, I noticed that the bird/plane metamorphosis is actually rather clunky. It's poorly edited. Surely even before computers it could have been done a lot more smoothly? Why didn't Powell ensure that it was better?



    I can probably be accused of applying 21st century sensiblities to a 1940s film, but does anyone else find the scene where the three main characters meet and mock a mentally handicapped person ('Are you by any chance the village idiot?') almost unwatchable? Otherwise in every other respect it's a deeply humane and gentle film, but this scene is barbaric. Just a few miles away across the Channel 'village idiots' were being rounded up and quietly disposed of; making fun of them isn't as bad, of course, but it's part of the same attitude. Pressburger would have been treated like this himself (rounded up, not just mocked) had he stayed in mainland Europe. I can't understand how he could write such an inhumane scene. Or am I just taking it much too seriously?
    I think that the falcon changing into a Spitfire is OK. The idea they're trying to get across is that things change but things remain the same - the knight who releases the falcon has the same face as the soldier watching the Spitfire. I don't think they're trying to suggest that it actually transformed, just that it was a similar image.



    The village idiot scene does jar against modern sensibilities and is still a bit of a puzzle. Although at least British villages did look after them as an early form of "care in the community".



    There are quite a few other cases of a village idiot in films and TV shows from John Mills in Ryan's Daughter to Trigger in Only Fools and Horses.



    Steve

  4. #144
    Senior Member Country: Europe Bernardo's Avatar
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    Well haven't I pressed a few buttons! I said I was surprised by the plaudits in this thread. The film is OK, nice, the camera work is excellent with the shadings and tone of the print masterly and the scene it sets is very evocative of those lazy end of Summer days, BUT, a meal is judged not only by it's presentation or that it was prepared by master chefs, the acid test is in the eating which is in this case the plot. You must agree it does not work too well. I wonder if the concept tried to be too clever as it is tied by the title to The Canterbury Tales. For a work to be declared great it must surely have a creditable base.

  5. #145
    Senior Member Country: UK CaptainWaggett's Avatar
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    Well haven't I pressed a few buttons! I said I was surprised by the plaudits in this thread. The film is OK, nice, the camera work is excellent with the shadings and tone of the print masterly and the scene it sets is very evocative of those lazy end of Summer days, BUT, a meal is judged not only by it's presentation or that it was prepared by master chefs, the acid test is in the eating which is in this case the plot. You must agree it does not work too well. I wonder if the concept tried to be too clever as it is tied by the title to The Canterbury Tales. For a work to be declared great it must surely have a creditable base.
    I'm not sure you're going to find anyone to agree with you on this one but I'm interested in why you don't think the plot works. I'd have thought it one of the most original and unusal plots of any wartime film - or any film really. No conventional romance, a crime that is solved yet the villain appears to go unpunished, three 'pilgrims' who find what they are looking for yet whose stories don't really connect with one another (more than one Tale in this film). What don't you like about it?

  6. #146
    Senior Member Country: UK
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    Well haven't I pressed a few buttons!
    You are as entitled to your own opinion as anybody else on here, Bernardo.



    If it doesn't 'do it' for you, then there's nothing you can do about that.

    If we all liked the same things,what a boring existence it would be!



    DS x.

  7. #147
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Well haven't I pressed a few buttons! I said I was surprised by the plaudits in this thread. The film is OK, nice, the camera work is excellent with the shadings and tone of the print masterly and the scene it sets is very evocative of those lazy end of Summer days, BUT, a meal is judged not only by it's presentation or that it was prepared by master chefs, the acid test is in the eating which is in this case the plot. You must agree it does not work too well. I wonder if the concept tried to be too clever as it is tied by the title to The Canterbury Tales. For a work to be declared great it must surely have a creditable base.
    No, I don't agree that it doesn't work too well. I think it works superbly well. And judging by the interest in it whenever it's shown, or when we do our location walks, I'm far from alone.



    I don't think you've pressed any particular buttons, but you've got us intrigued as to what it is you don't like about it. It's not compulsory to like it, but I would like to hear your reasons.



    And it isn't tied very tightly by the title to The Canterbury Tales. This is A Canterbury Tale



    Is that the problem? You were expecting a version of the Chaucer stories?



    Steve

  8. #148
    Senior Member Country: Europe Bernardo's Avatar
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    I'm not sure you're going to find anyone to agree with you on this one but I'm interested in why you don't think the plot works. I'd have thought it one of the most original and unusal plots of any wartime film - or any film really. No conventional romance, a crime that is solved yet the villain appears to go unpunished, three 'pilgrims' who find what they are looking for yet whose stories don't really connect with one another (more than one Tale in this film). What don't you like about it?
    Last word from me to answer points you have raised. I have just had a quick tour of my library and the inevitable Wilkapedia. I feel my opinion is vindicated, the cinematography was applauded, yes it is brilliant but I understand the film 'bombed' so I do not hold an isolated opinion. The critics, while patting Hillier on the back, slated the plot. Summed up by one newspaper as 'Lovely to look at but not much of a tale'. I can not speak any plainer than that.

  9. #149
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Last word from me to answer points you have raised. I have just had a quick tour of my library and the inevitable Wilkapedia. I feel my opinion is vindicated, the cinematography was applauded, yes it is brilliant but I understand the film 'bombed' so I do not hold an isolated opinion. The critics, while patting Hillier on the back, slated the plot. Summed up by one newspaper as 'Lovely to look at but not much of a tale'. I can not speak any plainer than that.
    The people watching it in 1944 had an excuse. They had other things to do like finish off the war. What's your excuse for not having moved on from that opinion like most reviewers and viewers in the more recent past?



    I would also like to know your opinion. Not the opinion of someone from 60 years ago.



    Anyway, it didn't "bomb", but it wasn't as big a success as they were used to.



    Steve

  10. #150
    Senior Member Country: Europe Bernardo's Avatar
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    The people watching it in 1944 had an excuse. They had other things to do like finish off the war. What's your excuse for not having moved on from that opinion like most reviewers and viewers in the more recent past?



    I would also like to know your opinion. Not the opinion of someone from 60 years ago.



    Anyway, it didn't "bomb", but it wasn't as big a success as they were used to.



    Steve
    I did say that that was my last word I have no wish to be rude about a work that some hold dear. A Canterbury Tale is satisfactory, saved by the camera work verging on genius. Watching the film, due to my age and upbringing, I felt I could almost walk into the screen and join the boys. That said it is not 'great' certainly not deserving the rather sycophantic plaudits awarded. The press criticism was accurate ' Lovely to look at but not much of a tale'. How can you say that the tale(s) is so good? Do I really need to justify a plot line that includes glue being applied to hair to stop fraternisation. The film was art for art's sake and it did not quite make it to the top level. It was a failure at the box office, yes saying it bombed was provocative and I apologise but I do not hold with the view that films like wine improve with age except perhaps the social comment on the time becomes more useful. I not only appreciate the fact that that area was packed with U.S. forces, I experienced it. If this was propaganda for that, it failed as the message was that the English can be distinctly odd even unhinged and I believe it had to be drastically changed for US audiences. I do feel like the boy who declared the King had no clothes and we must agree to disagree and call an end to what was an innocent comment.

  11. #151
    Senior Member Country: UK Chevyman's Avatar
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    I've no axe to grind one way or the other but I found this film via this forum



    I enjoyed its portrayal of Britain at that time and I'll be watching it again



    Next time there is a location visit, I intend to be on it

  12. #152
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    I'm also a dissenting voice on this film.Yes it is charming and quaint - but the premise of the story is The Glue Man attacking local women -trouble is Glue Man is shown only making 1(YES 1) measly attack(maybe glue was very expensive to throw around and would have pushed the film's budget ) - and that's it - he buggers off and virtually disappears.

    Incredibly Sylvia Sims is rather casually told of previous attacks and herself acts nonchalantly at such a vital revelation - and that's it- bugger all is heard of this key plot moment.

  13. #153
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    I did say that that was my last word I have no wish to be rude about a work that some hold dear. A Canterbury Tale is satisfactory, saved by the camera work verging on genius. Watching the film, due to my age and upbringing, I felt I could almost walk into the screen and join the boys. That said it is not 'great' certainly not deserving the rather sycophantic plaudits awarded. The press criticism was accurate ' Lovely to look at but not much of a tale'. How can you say that the tale(s) is so good? Do I really need to justify a plot line that includes glue being applied to hair to stop fraternisation. The film was art for art's sake and it did not quite make it to the top level. It was a failure at the box office, yes saying it bombed was provocative and I apologise but I do not hold with the view that films like wine improve with age except perhaps the social comment on the time becomes more useful. I not only appreciate the fact that that area was packed with U.S. forces, I experienced it. If this was propaganda for that, it failed as the message was that the English can be distinctly odd even unhinged and I believe it had to be drastically changed for US audiences. I do feel like the boy who declared the King had no clothes and we must agree to disagree and call an end to what was an innocent comment.
    I was just hoping for your own opinion on it. Have you seen it since 1944?

    The Glue Man is really a very small part of the story. People who can see beyond that are usually well rewarded with a very considerate tale that still has bearing on our lives today. It certainly wasn't propaganda to show how unhinged the English can be. Remember that it wasn't seen in the States until 1949.



    But as I've said before, such things aren't for everyone. It's not compulsory to like it



    Steve

  14. #154
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    I'm also a dissenting voice on this film.Yes it is charming and quaint - but the premise of the story is The Glue Man attacking local women -trouble is Glue Man is shown only making 1(YES 1) measly attack(maybe glue was very expensive to throw around and would have pushed the film's budget ) - and that's it - he buggers off and virtually disappears.

    Incredibly Sylvia Sims is rather casually told of previous attacks and herself acts nonchalantly at such a vital revelation - and that's it- bugger all is heard of this key plot moment.
    It was Sheila Sim, not Sylvia Sims

    They both complain about being confused with each other



    Alison (Sheila Sim) is told about the previous attacks, then she talks to the girls that were attacked and with the help of Bob & Peter they find out who was doing it and why. Hardly "bugger all".



    But that's still only a distraction to the main story, a reason for the three "pilgrims" to work together. What it leads to and what they discover is the real point of the film



    Steve

  15. #155
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    This is probably the most enjoyable UK film I have seen. Very unpredictable and still a few surprises on subsequent viewings. Portman is one of my favorites and Miss Sim is VERY cute. Barry.

  16. #156
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    name='Bernardo']I did say that that was my last word I have no wish to be rude about a work that some hold dear. A Canterbury Tale is satisfactory, saved by the camera work verging on genius. Watching the film, due to my age and upbringing, I felt I could almost walk into the screen and join the boys. That said it is not 'great' certainly not deserving the rather sycophantic plaudits awarded. The press criticism was accurate ' Lovely to look at but not much of a tale'. How can you say that the tale(s) is so good? Do I really need to justify a plot line that includes glue being applied to hair to stop fraternisation.


    I think you are mixing the subplot with the larger story and the theme. I think that many of the reviewers did the same thing in 1944.



    The glueman subplot was just that - a subplot. I agree that it is awkward, a mere plot device; however, it does work in that it brings together the main characters and allows us to understand Colpeper's love for a world that is in danger of disappearing.



    The plot of the film is a journey: the journey to Canterbury. Those who journey receive either a blessing or do penance. It is a rich and resonant theme, and it is exactly the same plot that Chaucer used. Some things work as well today as they did in the fourteenth century.





    The film was art for art's sake and it did not quite make it to the top level. It was a failure at the box office, yes saying it bombed was provocative and I apologise but I do not hold with the view that films like wine improve with age except perhaps the social comment on the time becomes more useful. I not only appreciate the fact that that area was packed with U.S. forces, I experienced it. If this was propaganda for that, it failed as the message was that the English can be distinctly odd even unhinged and I believe it had to be drastically changed for US audiences.


    Your comments about the US forces interest me. You obviously have a perspective I do not have on history.



    I would disagree with you about the film's intent, however. The edited version is a mess - and I think reflected a condescension towards American audiences. The complete original is a gem.



    The theme of Anglo-American relations is handled beautifully, and is a model of its kind: effective, perceptive, witty and complex.



    (It also delves far more deeply and effectively into this theme than the otherwise superb A Matter of Life and Death....(watches out for the ever-present Mister Crook...... )



    I just watched A Canterbury Tale again this week, and found yet another superb small detail that I had missed: during Colpepper's slide show, there are some mildly sarcastic remarks when Colppepper is talking about ancient Roman coins with Alison. Sergeant Johnson, one of nature's gentlemen, interrupts with a reassuring "It's very interesting!" addressed to Colpepper.



    In other words - Don't listen to the wisecracks. I really care about what you are saying and I hope you are not offended. And the other unspoken message to his English fellow listeners is: Shut up and listen.



    The words are a little too loud and blunt. But the spirit is obvious. This is EXACTLY right: just what a man like that would say - and just what an American of that time and background would say. Perfect.



    I do feel like the boy who declared the King had no clothes


    Well, not quite; most critics disliked - and I think, seriously undervalued, the film from its debut.



    But you are offering your own views, which I enjoy reading.



    ...and we must agree to disagree and call an end to what was an innocent comment.


    It would be interesting to hear more. This forum is a haven on the internet for civil discourse. Stirring the pot produces good discussion.


  17. #157
    Senior Member Country: England smiffy's Avatar
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    Thank you Tim R , for such an eloquent and informative post



    This was probably, the most accurate critique / synopsis , I have read with regard to ACT and I am sure Mr Crook would agree with you thoroughly .



    I welcomed Bernardos post as It made me question my own perspective of the film ,although It didn't alter anything for me , as I had the same warm glow after rewatching It that I had the first time I watched It .



    You are spot on Tim about this being the place for civil discourse I hope other members read your post ,in the hope It will remind them that civil , informative responses ,promote healthy discussion

  18. #158
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    The Glue Man sub-plot still puzzles me, after a dozen viewings of this poetic film.



    British rural bogeyman legends are a long tradition, so maybe Powell thought this was an introduction to the oddity of Kentish life. Thank goodness, the Glue Man mystery was ended early, and the story drove forward.



    A minor fault: US Sgt Johnson (John Sweet) met his soul mates at a timber yard. They discussed how to cure green lumber until it was ready for use. My gripe: Sgt Johnson said he was from Oregon, and talked about oak and chestnut.



    Grr. Oregon is a western state that produces fir, pine and cedar - Pacific coast softwoods that are unlike British hardwoods. Their conversation would have been credible had Sweet's character been from Ohio or Pennsylvania.



    These are minor quibbles. ACT suspended belief to make important points, and sometimes focussed on tiny details for effect. "Oy, mister, are you a Sergeant? Yer stripes are wrong-way up!"



    That's right, USA chevrons are opposite to British stripes. That gave ACT a brief laugh.



    In the end, A CANTERBURY TALE made its points well. The pilgramage was accidental for Sgt Johnson. He got off the train one station short of Canterbury. His new friends created a different life than he expected.



    When they got to Canterbury, each had their their own duty, but every one had been affected by their companions.



    Was this a flagwaver? Oh yeah. As seen in the search of bombed-flat Canterbury streets for an address lost in the rubble. British defiance was rightly shown in the signs "Messrs Smith & Watkins relocated to 140 Church Street" etc.

  19. #159
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    Hi all,

    Sorry to stumble across this thread so late!

    I love the film. As a 10 year old moving to West Kent in 1968, I could still feel some of the charm of the old county portrayed in the film before it became commuter zone by the time I left in 1987.

    My old school friend from Sevenoaks who now lives in the States so enjoyed it when he was over, he sent me the US version with both endings and special programme of John Sweet returning to Canterbury around 2000. Great DVD!!

    Mark

  20. #160
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    name='smiffy']Thank you Tim R , for such an eloquent and informative post



    This was probably, the most accurate critique / synopsis , I have read with regard to ACT and I am sure Mr Crook would agree with you thoroughly .



    I welcomed Bernardos post as It made me question my own perspective of the film ,although It didn't alter anything for me , as I had the same warm glow after rewatching It that I had the first time I watched It .



    You are spot on Tim about this being the place for civil discourse I hope other members read your post ,in the hope It will remind them that civil , informative responses ,promote healthy discussion


    Thanks Smiffy - always good to talk with you.



    Yes, a good disagreement does make me think about why I like or dislike a film, and at times - especialy here on this forum - I have looked again at a film that I didn't enjoy as a boy and tested my own response.



    In the case of The Battle of Britain I realized that my initial response, at the wise old age of 15, had to be reconsidered. I only wanted to see documentaries then (that was when The World at War was shown here for the first time....) and I was biased against the mixture of history and fiction.



    After seeing the discussion here, I watched it again - and was moved impressed.

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