This is what happens when your car breaks down on a Sunday morning and you have nothing else to do…
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
General Clive Candy lives through four decades of war and peace - from the Boer War to World War II - trying to stay true to his belief that "right will always defeat might" and trying to stay relevant while the world changes irrevocably around him.
Film #10 of Project 40
”War starts at midnight!”
Few films can catch the spirit of time as good as this 1943 visually riveting and thematically intricate piece of cinema. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger portray the passing of time and the changes it brings to the moral values of society and individuals so finely and with such skill that the whole film looks like a reflection of life at its simplest form, with lost loves, regrets, friendships, adventures and misfortunes. The film looks back at Clive Candy’s life and shows his journey through time, how he has lived his life and most importantly how he has failed to catch up with the passing of time. The Life and Death…
My opportunities for watching films are often quite limited, and often coincide with looking after my daughter and I have hundreds of films here to watch. So I tend to go for fairly short films and fit a few into my film watching days. Which means films like this, which I was always sure I would love, tend to sit unwatched for years at a time.
Which is a shame, as the long run time that makes me opt to instead watch two shorter films is probably this films hidden weapon. You experience the passage of time with the central character and you adjust as he adjusts, you learn to accept failings and look past them, you feel a wide…
Since I joined Letterboxd, I've only had reason to hit the 5 star button for a viewing of a film during my lifetime here on six occasions, and three of those were for films I'd seen before. Out of all them, I probably hit it for The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp twice as quick as for any of the rest of them. What a wonderful, wonderful film.
I did a little bit of reading up about it beforehand as I really did not know anything about it all and I have to say that I was a little bit daunted by it before I started. Not because of its…
A film made right in the middle of the Second World War with a friendly, sympathetic German and the symbolic positioning of an out of touch Colonel representing the beginning of the end of an Empire. No wonder the forces that be were none too pleased with Powell and Pressburger.
On face value it may be easier to dismiss this ridiculous looking figure at the start, a blustering old man with his round cartoonish features, whose values seen out of touch. “War starts at midnight!” he bellows at the impetuous young sergeant. Then we are forced to take a step back, asked to see this man through the years, look beyond the crimson face, ridiculous moustache and stiff upper lip.…
Not yet the eye-piercing target of subsequent films, the Archers’ freshly-minted emblem is here the enchanted stamp on a vast, elaborate tapestry. Britannia during the Blitz is a rubicund, slumbering walrus (Roger Livesey), outraged by the new generation’s ungallant aggressiveness; his bushy mustache hides a scar, he was also a reckless blade once, four decades and three wars flash before his eyes. In the Edwardian Belle Époque the fussy old general is a Boer War officer, young and impudent enough to turn a diplomatic affair into an affront to the German Army. The symphonic first movement climaxes with the camera craning away from a duel just as swords are crossed, then finding the protagonist and his Prussian opponent (Anton Walbrook)…
Director: Michael Powell (and Emeric Pressburger) (First Film)
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp may be the most British film I have seen and as a film about being British, is probably the best of its kind. A combative and often intensely funny duo; together, collectively known as The Archers - Powell and Pressburger (although it has often been said that Powell did most of the directing) create a seamless, timeless and quite frankly masterful film that is hearty and poignant but also incredibly funny and always entertaining.
The seamlessness comes from the structure of the film. We're introduced to our main character Major-General Clive Candy as an almost seemingly pathetic figure. An older gentleman who somewhat…
Almost unbelievable that this was shot in color during WWII - the print restoration (Criterion Blu-Ray) is gorgeous. Have to hand it to the make-up artists - Roger Livesey's aging make-up is fantastic and better than most of the SFX make-up currently in use almost 70 years later.
The story is really an interesting commentary on a certain type of Englishman - the very mannered, blustery, class-bound variety - and how the world changes around him. Livesey is fantastic as Candy with Walbrook as his Prussian/German foil (double? Foil? Theo also being a career military man but forced into a different career much earlier). Deborah Kerr pulls off a triple role - the three women must be a little similar but also different from each other.
(Michael Powell's commentary guessed exactly what I was thinking when he commented that Deborah Kerr is overdressed for a governess. Yep, exactly.)
Magical. Powell/Pressburger were unstoppable in their day, their technicolor prowess stunning year by year, and this film is no different. Colonel Blimp is no Red Shoes, but like the latter, there are knockout sequences here that cannot be rivaled. There is such an overwhelming sense of pure, unaltered realism that keeps the engine on this thing running past the time it should. A fast 164 minutes.
Honestly, this has to be my best film-watching month ever already, or at least the best start.
This movie is great because of its superb character development. You follow the life of a british army officer who the movie tells you to hate at the beginning, and by the end you love him. When a movie is so successful at making you a better human, it's not hard to rate it well. The movie's treatment of the issues of war and aging are timeless and well worth the viewing.
I absolutely love Michael Powell, but unfortunately this was a movie about a character I did not enjoy, acting in a subject matter I don't care for. And it's almost 3 hours long and not too pretty to look at either.
Simply not for me.
A sort of enlightening tale about old age and the passage of time. It is very carefully put together for maximum comprehension and delivers a message about faith that has never felt so contextually pleasing. Mainly pleasing because it feels authentic in displaying the emotions of the various characters in a way that is not too overzealous. With that being said it stands out as an essential when it comes to British cinema. It is even more impressive because it was made during the 2nd world war, a time where producing films was no easy feat especially when you had a specific important message to get across. Not everyone will be amused with its oddball nature but for those open-minded…
I expect this is the kind of film that marinates well. It's heartbreaking and sprawling and haunting and fun, and I didn't know a movie could do all those things so completely. I was also pleasantly surprised at the thoughtful, varied displays of diversity (not necessarily racial, though). All-around a deeply satisfying film, even in its most unsettling moments. I imagine I'll keep returning to Major General Wynne-Candy's world.
Included In Lists:
Criterion Collection - #173
When I hear the names Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, the vivid images of Technicolor comes to mind, recalling the breathtaking eye candies that their films were able to consistently deliver, even if the stories themselves are not of equal impact. Seeing The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp continues to withhold such expectations, with another film from their filmography fittingly restored, its colours as striking as ever, and its framing and composition as ambitious and enveloping as any of their other films.
No doubt, such could not surpass the impact that was left upon me with The Red Shoes, a film that utilises its cinematography as a means to significantly amplify the…
Seeing films about WWII made during WWII is always interesting, and that is especially so of a film like this, about a friendship between an English officer and his German counterpart over the period from the Boer War to WWII.
It's a propaganda film, but one that made propagandists uneasy for its willingness to admit a "good German" on screen, albeit one who condemns the Nazis and becomes a refugee in England.
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