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  1. #1
    James
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    A Canterbury Tale is the only film I've seen that successfully aspires to the quality of a dream. The love for, and depiction of, a way of life that was vanishing at the time the film was made is simply unsurpassed by any British film before or since. The tragedy is that we have descended from these heights to a situation where Lock, Stock etc. can be hailed as a great film. Even if someone made a film like A.C.T today it would be lucky to be shown. Every critic, director and distributor should be shown this film and told only one word, "Learn".

  2. #2
    Member Country: England
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    Another favourite of mine.



    I am lucky enough to live in the area where this film was made - Michael Powell was from Kent and his obvious love of the area shines through.



    It's fascinating to see the effects of the war on the city of Canterbury itself compared to what it is like now - the rebuilding of the city after the war was hardly an improvement and only in the past 15 years have any genuine improvements been made.

  3. #3
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    James:

    A Canterbury Tale is the only film I've seen that successfully aspires to the quality of a dream. The love for, and depiction of, a way of life that was vanishing at the time the film was made is simply unsurpassed by any British film before or since. The tragedy is that we have descended from these heights to a situation where Lock, Stock etc. can be hailed as a great film. Even if someone made a film like A.C.T today it would be lucky to be shown. Every critic, director and distributor should be shown this film and told only one word, "Learn".
    I quite agree James. But it is odd that it wasn't all that well received at the time (1944/5). People didn't understand the message. But since then it's become one of their most popular films (along with The Red Shoes, A Matter of Life and Death, I Know Where I'm Going, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp).



    When we showed it in Canterbury at 10am on a Tuesday morning in October 2000, over 300 people turned up to see it. Not at all bad for a 46 year old film. Maybe it was helped because Sheila Sim (Lady Attenborough) and John Sweet were also there. See http://www.Powell-Pressburger.org/Trips/Ca...erbury/20001010



    Next year will be the 60th anniversary of its release. We hope to do something special to commemorate that.

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    I hope so!



    I saw it at the Empire Cinema in Sandwich a few years ago as part of the Kent Film Festival - the cinema was packed out.



    I would dearly love to see it on a big screen again.



    Edited to say - I have just had a look at your pics taken at the last event - I used to work with John Clark at the Post Office in Canterbury (actually I still do - he's retired). Small world.

  5. #5
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    There was an article in the Kentish Gazette (Sept 4th) about this year's ACT location tour on 31/8/03. More than 50 people turned up for it!



    I'm still gradually gathering the photos and reports together for the web site.



    John Clark had a nice time, telling people all about the filming of the scene in the woodyard (he's the boy sitting on the wall) and filming in Canterbury itself (he & his Mum were in the crowd scenes).

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    When I was asked for my favourite film on signing up to BritMovie, I had little hesitation in putting down 'A Canterbury Tale'. I tend to favour comedies, and I've certainly got a lot of time for 'Oh, Mr. Porter', 'The Green Man' and (more recently) 'Without A Clue', amongst others - but 'A Centerbury Tale' is just on a different level, not only a very sophisticated film, which deftly winds so many different themes together (of which the basic plot is probably the least significant!)but also a truly BEAUTIFUL film - not least the final scenes when the caracters each find themselves in Canterbury Cathedral, for instance, when the American Bob Johnson stands in the magificance of the gothic cathedral and quietly says to himself "And my Dad's Pa built the first Baptist Church in Johnson County. Oregon Red Cedar. Cedar shingles. 1887. Well that was a good job too." Mind you, much of the 'cathedral' was actually a set - and itself another 'good job'.

  7. #7
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    As this year it will be 60 years since the world premiere (at Friars Cinema, now the Marlowe Theatre) there will be a few celebrations of the film in Canterbury this year.



    Our annual location walk & pilgrimage will probably be in Fordwich this year. See the Town Hall and various other locations. Sunday August 29th. PaPAS web site

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    "A Canterbury Tale" is one of my favourite films,every time I watch it I see something different:a new idea or theory comes to mind about what the main premise is and what the characters are doing within that.Now,no doubt leaving myself open to a lot of redress,I have a(latest) theory,so here goes:Three people meet at a train station,is this chance or is it pre-ordained?Would they have become friends if it were not for the glue man?So,as the film progresses,we discover a(so-called)potty J.P.-Colpepper,but is he?Could it not be that Colpepper isn't potty after all but an,shall we say,ethereal type being?Angelic,for want of a better word.OK let's backpeddle a tad,the three friends all have some sadness in their lives and need fulfillment,how do they know they can find it at Canterbury?Perhaps they needed guidance to get there?Notice that they all see Colpepper at important moments,so he can influence them in some way and he(Colpepper)always turns up to "watch over"them.Then, in the final moments he's there to make sure his work is done.I have no idea if this notion has been talked about before,if it has please let me know,it just came to mind as I watched it recently.

    Well there we are,yes I know the theory is simple,overly romantic and the film has many more complexities,but why not?The film after all is full of fancy and silliness,so romanticism is part of that,surely.It's just an idea along with the many that surround this slice of poetic wonder from the sweetest cake which is British film.

  9. #9
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    I'd never even heard of this film until this forum. It sounds a bit like "It's a Wonderful Life", so I hope it's not as disappointing as that film when I get a copy. I shall try to do that straight away, so would you please, please try not to reveal too much of the plot when you reply? clown

  10. #10
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    A Canterbury Tale is a modern (1940s) Chaucer. It was a tragic time in British history when this movie was made (1944) and P&P set a movie that embraces the best of a national memory, which goes beyond the power factors that people rankle about today and which was slipping away back then (in this way it is a positive side of the coin to Col. Blimp).



    Chris Wicking, in his review of the film, from 44, says it better than I can, wrote:



    "... the scenes detailing the trio's investigation are less about that investigation than about their relationships with each other, their seemingly lost loves (human and spiritual), the countryside and the mystical, magical feelings in the air. Less a storyline, then, more a narrative spine to which the other ideas can be attached, so that watching the film becomes a sort of pilgrimage for the audience."



    Also, the eccentric character plays into a thread in England that is part of the whole and is part of the trail, which is unique to England. This is about England. Scotland, Wales and Nortern Ireland have their own uniquesness in the greater whole.



    In the current international setting, which tends to be antagonistic to all things Anglo (within as well as without) this film is an affectionate look at a great country and it's people.



    I see Decks, you've been to Canterbury.



    Gibbie

  11. #11
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    deckard:

    "A Canterbury Tale" is one of my favourite films,every time I watch it I see something different:a new idea or theory comes to mind about what the main premise is and what the characters are doing within that.
    You won't be surprised to hear that I find that true of many P&P films

    Now,no doubt leaving myself open to a lot of redress,I have a(latest) theory,so here goes:Three people meet at a train station,is this chance or is it pre-ordained?Would they have become friends if it were not for the glue man?So,as the film progresses,we discover a(so-called)potty J.P.-Colpepper,but is he?Could it not be that Colpepper isn't potty after all but an,shall we say,ethereal type being?Angelic,for want of a better word.
    No redness of the face due because of that. Others have likened Colpeper to Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill

    OK let's backpeddle a tad,the three friends all have some sadness in their lives and need fulfillment,how do they know they can find it at Canterbury?Perhaps they needed guidance to get there?Notice that they all see Colpepper at important moments,so he can influence them in some way and he(Colpepper)always turns up to "watch over"them.Then, in the final moments he's there to make sure his work is done.I have no idea if this notion has been talked about before,if it has please let me know,it just came to mind as I watched it recently.
    It has been talked about, but usually only in the depths of P&P admiration.



    Well there we are,yes I know the theory is simple,overly romantic and the film has many more complexities,but why not?The film after all is full of fancy and silliness,so romanticism is part of that,surely.It's just an idea along with the many that surround this slice of poetic wonder from the sweetest cake which is British film.
    And what's wrong with romantic ideals?



    It never did big business when it was first released. People weren't really ready to listen to the slightly mystical "joy of the land" message. They had other things that seemed important in 1944. But nowadays we find that the messages in the film are much better understood.



    Those Archers were ahead of their time again - about 60 years ahead of it :)

  12. #12
    Senior Member Country: England
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    Yes Steve,you are right,P&P were far ahead of their time.Don't you think that it's a strange human idiosyncrasy that a lot of works of genius are shunned at their original release?It's not only in film,for example,the great composers like Mozart for one,considered a prodigy today but died isolated in a paupers grave.So we talk of men like P&P being so far ahead,but who can you think of thesedays is that far seeing?

  13. #13
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    The mysticism worked in Amolad because of the fantasy plot device but in ACT the three contemporary pilgrims seem to be trotting across Lord Byron's England rather than a country at war.



    I slightly disagree with Steve's thinking that the 'Archers were ahead of their time again', like a few other pnp's ACT is one that time will not only be kind to but advantageous.

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    Just going over these posts again...and I do see your point somewhat,but conversely,doesn't something have to be ahead of it's time for time to catch up with it to see how it became advantageous?Erm...yer I think that's right!

  15. #15
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    Was it by accident or design? Other films have been ignored or given a mixed reception at the time of release, but years later they either come into vogue as Get Carter did or a different generation are charmed by the intricacies of say The Wicker Man.



    Was another Powell film, Peeping Tom, ahead of it's time or simply a film that would be better evaluated by a more desensitized audience years later?

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    Agreed DB7,however the overriding fact is that these films dicussed had something more to say than the mainstream.Thousands of films fall by the wayside,to be lost into obscurity...why? Maybe they lack the original quality and creativity that certain films that stand the test of time undoubtedly have,they seem to ride over the ebb and flow of what is fashionable and stand stalwart.I first saw,for example AMOLAD some 20-25 years ago,when what was in fashion included shock humour,high tech(then)effects and furious pace,but after one viewing of the aforesaid I was completely besotted - and still am,whereas the majority(not all)of the films I saw then have been laid to rest in the great cutting room in the sky.Yes,most certainly time changes the aspect and perception,but also,I believe,makes us understand more the genius of filmakers at their zenith.

    The only fly in the ointment is that it's a human frailty(amongst the many)some might say that makes us look back at these peaches with a sweet tooth and glasses that have an undeniable tint toward the rose coloured.

  17. #17
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    DB7:

    Was it by accident or design? Other films have been ignored or given a mixed reception at the time of release, but years later they either come into vogue as Get Carter did or a different generation are charmed by the intricacies of say The Wicker Man.



    Was another Powell film, Peeping Tom, ahead of it's time or simply a film that would be better evaluated by a more desensitized audience years later?
    Desensitized? Or is it that we can now look past what shocked the critics at the time? It certainly wasn't the killing as you never see anyone killed except for Mark himself.



    I think what upset them more was the way that it involves you in the murky business. You are made to realise that Mark is quite nice in some ways. You are also made to realise that being a peeping tom is wrong - but then you're watching him, watching the girls.



    It's hardly a horror, a slasher or any of the other genres that the critics at the time tried to put it in (one even called it a "snuff movie"). But it is certainly unsettling.



    Sadly it was only given a limited release in 1960 so the audiences weren't allowed to have their say.

  18. #18
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    <deckard:

    Agreed DB7,however the overriding fact is that these films dicussed had something more to say than the mainstream.Thousands of films fall by the wayside,to be lost into obscurity...why? Maybe they lack the original quality and creativity that certain films that stand the test of time undoubtedly have,they seem to ride over the ebb and flow of what is fashionable and stand stalwart.I first saw,for example AMOLAD some 20-25 years ago,when what was in fashion included shock humour,high tech(then)effects and furious pace,but after one viewing of the aforesaid I was completely besotted - and still am,whereas the majority(not all)of the films I saw then have been laid to rest in the great cutting room in the sky.Yes,most certainly time changes the aspect and perception,but also,I believe,makes us understand more the genius of filmakers at their zenith.

    The only fly in the ointment is that it's a human frailty(amongst the many)some might say that makes us look back at these peaches with a sweet tooth and glasses that have an undeniable tint toward the rose coloured.
    But isn't AMOLAD a special case? :)

    The special effects in it can still stand comparison with the best that CGI can offer. Compare the courtroom scene with the arena in Gladiator.



    I saw it on Sunday at the Curzon, Soho and it still has the power to move me to laughter & tears.



    The story is timeless ("What is time A mere tyranny") but I'm still amazed at the audacity of their making a film about death (& life) just after the end of WWII.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    SteveCrook:

    Desensitized? Or is it that we can now look past what shocked the critics at the time?
    I think the two are pretty much related.



    I was but a glint in my mother's eye at the time but I wonder if critics and audiences were repulsed by the films seedy side, Mark being an innocent looking but sinister schizophrenic, and that Powell had the audacity to break out of his pigeonhole as a high brow director.



    Above all it's voyeuristic and maybe that interaction with the audience was just a bit too unsettling.



    With PT maybe Powell was ahead of his time and pushing back subject boundaries but surely ACT was ret�‚·ros in it's snapshot of England?

  20. #20
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    DB7:



    With PT maybe Powell was ahead of his time and pushing back subject boundaries but surely ACT was ret�‚·ros in it's snapshot of England?
    Or was it forward looking and is now more in tune with more modern environmental thinking?



    At the time, most people were too concerned with finishing off or getting over the war. Now we have more leisure time to consider these things. And you can't know where you're going unless you know where you came from.

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