Archive for June 9th, 2009

The Life and Death of Colonel BlimpI’m taking a small break from talking about my show that opens Friday to mention a film that is showing today on Turner Classic Movies.  They’re showing several films of the great director Michael Powell and finish up with The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp from 1943.

It’s probably not a movie many of you know and that’s a great shame.  Colonel Blimp was a popular comic character in the British papers of the 1930’s, an older, round British officer who was a throwback to the Boer War, always recounting his exotic exploits in the far reaches of the Empire in a doddering, foolish manner.  The movie begins in WW II Britain and the main character, Clive Candy, is an older officer who has become the very embodiment of Colonel Blimp.  The movie traces his life and shows, sympathetically, how he came to be such a character.  It was a very controversial movie in wartime Britain because of the presence of a German officer who was portrayed as a sympathetic character.  Even though he was anti-Nazi, the portrayal of any German officer in such a favorable light drew the ire of Winston Churchill and the British government.

Visually, like all films from Powell and partner, Emeric Pressburger, Colonel Blimp is stunning and has the beautiful saturated color that are present in all of Powell’s color films, like The Red Shoes or The Black Narcissus or my favorite, A Matter of Life and Death.  There is a short sequence at the film’s beginning that could easily be the first example of the modern music video.  It consists of a group of troops on motorcycles speeding through the English countryside to the sounds of rollicking big band music.  The filming is sharp with daring shots and gives you the sense of the speed and power of the bikes as their movements were in sync with the crash of the music.  When I first saw it I was thrilled.  It had such a modern feel, something I wasn’t expecting in a film from 1943.  I wonder how many filmmakers had seen that short segment and been influenced to further highlight a scene with music.

I don’t usually like to recommend movies for much the same reason I don’t like to recommend specific art.  Film, like art, is a really personal preference.  Totally subjective.  What I may see in a film or piece or art may elude you and vice versa.  But if you get the chance see Colonel Blimp or any of the other Michael Powell films.  They are visually beautiful and greatly interesting.  His eye for composing the image that you see reminds me of the way John Ford put his scenes together.  Both have a truly artistic feel, adding an elegance and magnificence to almost every shot.  There is nothing mundane in any of their work.  Good, good stuff…

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