Thursday, July 27, 2006

This Just Out: A Canterbury Tale

A DVD of the 1944 Powell and Pressburger film, A Canterbury Tale was released by Criterion a few days ago and a copy of it has already made its way to my door (thank you Amazon pre-order). The film takes its title from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and uses its theme of medieval pilgrimage to portray the wartime experiences of a group of Kentish citizens, a British soldier played by Dennis Price, an American soldier played by real life GI John Sweet, and a 'Land Girl' played by Sheila Sim. As the group arrives at the railway station in the fictitious small Kent town of Chillingbourne, the girl is attacked by the mysterious ‘glue man,’ who pours glue on the hair of girls seen with soldiers after dark. The three investigate the attack, thus beginning a pilgrimage that leads not only to the identity of the glue man, but also to a greater understanding of themselves.

For further information on this unusual film go to BFI ScreenOnline
Collection of Reviews and articles at the Powell and Pressburger Pages
Information about the film, transfer, and extra features at Criterion Collection
Article by Tamara Tracz at Senses of Cinema

Similar Powell and Pressburger films:
Edge of the World and I Know Where I’m Going!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

In Honor of Ingmar Bergman's Birthday on July 14, my Top Five Bergman films (in descending order):

Ingmar Bergman. Yes, I know you’re groaning, but when it comes to morose and redemptively weird you just can't beat him. His films have everything one needs: humor, death, love, beauty. You name it.

Summer Interlude Young love, a carefree summer holiday, alcoholism, a voyeuristic priest, an old woman who refuses to die, a poodle, accidental death, and lots of behind the scenes theatre stuff. You'll laugh (well, ok), you'll cry and you'll be thankful if your experience with first love didn’t end like this. A sad and beautiful film about love and loss.

The Seventh Seal What to say since most everyone's seen it. If you haven't, then I must ask how it is that you were able to resist a movie in which a soldier just returned from the Crusades rides around plague stricken Sweden putting off death by challenging him to a lengthy game of chess every evening while hanging out with new friends who are actors by trade and religious hysterics by nature? It's fabulous! Especially the part when the freaks come to town beating themselves and wailing because they feel the plague is God's punishment for their sins. Some things never change.

The Virgin Spring At first you think the whole thing's about this girl who's so pretty everyone makes an absurd fuss over her and you want to vomit, but then when she's killed almost immediately you get that there's a lot more to this flick (you also feel a little guilty for being so mean spirited). It’s medieval Sweden so her mother's a religious nut, of course, always mortifying her flesh to atone for her sins, but her dad's pretty mellow, so you have to wonder how the two of them ever hooked up. Once dad learns of his daughter’s death, it's off to the sauna where he prepares for a fight with her killers by beating himself with willow branches. He grabs the nearest knife and exciting he-man stuff ensues. Good overcomes evil very neatly in the end, but of course the girl’s still dead so it’s only so reassuring.

Wild Strawberries A universally appealing story about a man nearing the end of his life where he looks back at the joy and sorrow of the past and dwells too much on the mistakes (real and imagined) he's made in life. At the last it's bittersweet. (In terms of Swedish cinema that makes it practically an upper!) He manages to reconcile with his past and put it all into some sort of perspective. Some surreal dream sequences and a beautiful Erik Nordgren score make this an exceptionally lyrical film.

Ok. This last one's tough. Do I pick The Devil's Eye (about Don Juan, the Devil and a possible-time-off-for-good-behavior situation all done with a great heaping spoon full of black humor) or do I go for Through a Glass Darkly (about a schizophrenic chick living on an island with her husband, her father and her brother the last summer before they lock her up for good). She thinks God is a big black spider living in a crack in the wall of an unused room! The choice is frankly too difficult for me to make. On the one hand you have the Devil and the whole fiery pit of damnation thing and on the other you have insanity, family conflict, and Protestantism gone awry all in a picturesque island setting. I lean towards Through a Glass Darkly, but the power of Ultimate Evil is so strong. I guess it's a tie. Of course, if anyone has any definite feelings on this issue, be sure to let me know. It could decide me.

bergmanorama tribute site
bergman profile in senses of cinema
the bergman foundation