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ACT Analysis

Post  Pilgrim on Wed 03 May 2017, 4:53 am

The Archers (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger) were probably the most successful British movie makers of all time. Pressburger wrote the screenplays in close collaboration with Powell. Pressburger also acted as the producer more than Powell who did most of the directing. Pressburger was also involved in the editing and the selection of the music due to the fact that he was a musician as well as a writer. Believe it or not, Pressburger was actually barred from entering and working in the county of Kent by the Chief Constable on the grounds that he was a Hungarian who had once worked in Berlin. Yet, he and Powell collaborated to produce a number of patriotic movies during the war. The British Army refused to cooperate with the production of A Canterbury Tale and even Winston Churchill thought the movie would damage morale. Powell was born in 1905 in Bekesbourne, England. He attended the King's School in Canterbury during World War One. Much of ACT is a cinematic tribute to the traditional English culture of Powell's homeland showing scenes of the beautiful Kent countryside and the Pilgrims Way. The movie is very much about Powell's love of his birthplace and all that he felt about England. There is so much about him that is laid down in ACT, even his love of scything the grass. Local boys were incorporated into the plot. "I lived in Fordwich and I was walking down the High Street on my way to school when a member of the crew, who were filming in the village, came over and took some photos of me eating a large apple," said one of the now very much older boys who actually still lives in Kent. Arguably, ACT is Powell and Pressburger's most meaningful collaboration.



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ACT Analysis

Post  Pilgrim on Mon 15 May 2017, 11:09 am

The majority of the final internal Canterbury Cathedral scenes were careful reconstructions built at Denham Studios (see photo) because the church authorities would rightly not allow the filming of the inside the cathedral for commercial gain. Regardless, the stained glass windows had been taken out because of the air raids. Plus, the aisles were filled with earth to fight fires and to provide a soft landing for any sculptures or masonry that may have fallen down from the ceiling during the German bombing attacks.




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ACT Analysis

Post  Pilgrim on Fri 26 May 2017, 2:10 am

"Six hundred years have passed. What would they see, Dan Chaucer and his goodly company? Today the hills and valleys are the same. Gone are the forests since the enclosures came. Hedgerows have sprung. The land is under plow, And orchards bloom with blossom on the bough. Sussex and Kent are like a garden fair, But sheep still graze upon the ridges there. The Pilgrims’ Way still winds above the weald, Through wood and break and many a fertile field. But though so little’s changed since Chaucer’s day, Another kind of pilgrim walks the way. Alas, when on our pilgrimage we wend, We modern pilgrims see no journey’s end. Gone are the ring of hooves, the creak of wheel. Down in the valley runs our road of steel. No genial host at sinking of the sun welcomes us in. Our journey’s just begun."

Within A Canterbury Tale's timeless landscape, the primary distinction between the fourteenth and twentieth centuries arises not from the land, but from a change in the life of its people. The narrator tells us, "Another kind of pilgrim walks the way," illustrating how soldiers disrupt England's pastoral tranquility, yet at the same time are essential for its defence. An example of the change that is seen after 600 years in a shot of a falcon transforming into a Spitfire and then soldiers riding in Universal Carriers. ACT celebrates England for its pastoral past and depicts its characters seeking to preserve that pastoralism while nonetheless proclaiming modern military as a necessary evil in achieving that aim. The narrator goes on to say, "We modern pilgrims see no journey's end," diagnosing mankind as spiritually blind. Like the unchanged hills and orchards, Canterbury Cathedral still stands for all to see, but war threatens that pastoral backdrop which prohibits contemporary pilgrims from reaching their journey's end. Later in the movie, we witness medieval England collide with a troubled modern world when Alison Smith rebukes Sergeant Peter Gibbs who is patrolling with his men in Universal Carriers, "What's the idea of frightening my horse? Why don't you keep your beastly carriers off the Pilgrims Road?" Alison's obvious indignation at war's disruption of her traditional bucolic life is understandable in that pastoralism encourages relaxed pleasures rather than military discipline.

While country folk often get modernized we can only hope our sheep don't change!



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ACT Analysis

Post  Pilgrim on Fri 26 May 2017, 2:11 am

Pastorals privilege rural pleasure over urban pursuits, and the good people of Chillingbourne assert their preference for their beloved village over large cities. Thomas Colpeper is the feudal patriarch whose intimacy to the land establishes him as a natural interpreter of the law. The blacksmith hears the local news at six o'clock when the pub opens. Albert Woodcock at the Hand of Glory presumes that Alison Smith knows the name of the Mayor of London on the same basis he knows the local magistrate. The health and wellbeing of individual residents is communicated through the village grapevine as seen when Colpeper asks young Terry the status of his father's lumbago. There's even a village idiot who after being questioned walks off into the misty night continuing to be glimpsed in the background while the protagonists enjoy themselves imitating him. Chillingbourne is seen as a pastoral retreat from the turmoil and criminality of an urban existence. It's a vision of an idyllic world of relaxed labour and bucolic virtue. Chillingbourne's residents experience innocence and happiness through their historical and contemporary identity. They enjoy a life of peace and harmony in a folklore village by their understanding and appreciation of England's medieval past.



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ACT Analysis

Post  Pilgrim on Fri 26 May 2017, 2:12 am

A Canterbury Tale movie locations:



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ACT Analysis

Post  Pilgrim on Fri 26 May 2017, 2:12 am

CHILLINGBOURNE CONSTABULARY

When Alison Smith asks policeman Bertie Bassett why he will not search the Town Hall where the Glue Man has fled, he replies, "You leave that to us, miss. We may be slow in Chillingbourne compared with London ways, but we know our duty and we have our methods." Defending his village against any criticism regarding its ability to protect its citizens, Bassett upholds the virtue of his small town police force in comparison to London's greater manpower. Within that pastoral mystery, the surname Bassett underlines his connection to the natural world, in that he manifests the crime fighting powers of a basset hound. A human avatar of the natural world, Bassett unifies the opposed genres of pastoral and mystery, and again endorses small town life when he states, "This is Chillingbourne, Sergeant Johnson, not Chicago." The residents of Chillingbourne thus proclaim their idyllic virtue in contrast to the rampant violence of large cities.



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ACT Analysis

Post  Pilgrim on Fri 26 May 2017, 2:13 am

A Canterbury Tale favours country life in its comparison to city life. The scene on the hill is worth mentioning showing two of the characters with their very much contrasting lives with one living in the beautiful country while the other existing in the ugly city.

COUNTRY LIFE:

"Disturb you at what?"

"Breathing the air, smelling the earth, watching the clouds."


CITY LIFE:

"What would you be doing this afternoon in London if there wasn't any war?"

"Reading, playing cards with the boys, waiting for the pubs to open."



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ACT Analysis

Post  Pilgrim on Fri 26 May 2017, 2:14 am

In Chillingbourne Town Hall, Sergeant Bob Johnson tells Colpeper of his penchant for seeing movies, "It's a great thing to sit back in an armchair and watch the world go by in front of you." Colpeper scoffs at Bob's shallow thinking, "The drawback is Sergeant Johnson, the people may get used to looking at the world from a sitting position. When they really do pass through it they don't see anything." Bob's cinema life is in sharp contrast to nature loving Colpeper who prefers to watch the clouds sailing by while lying flat on his back. He reviles what he sees as the blank passivity of mass cinema spectatorship and the inauthentic nature of distributed duplicated images. After Bob indicates his intention to visit Canterbury Cathedral, Colpeper facetiously tells him, "Do look out for it. It's just behind the movie theatre, you can't miss it." Colpeper also challenges the thinking of cinema organist Sergeant Peter Gibbs who questions the purpose of long walks and mountain climbing, "Why walk if there's a train? Why climb to the top at all, what's wrong with the valley?" When Peter explains that his boyhood dream was to be a church organist, Colpeper tells him, "Seems to me sergeant that there are two kinds of men, one who learns to play Bach and Handel only to play 'I Kiss Your Hand Madame.' And the man who learns to walk step by step so one day he might climb Mount Everest." When Peter finally arrives at Canterbury Cathedral, he unwittingly takes the steps to the organ loft in a manner linked to Colpeper's earlier remark about climbing Mount Everest. Peter then plays Bach's famous Toccata, reminding us of Colpeper's words concerning the study of Bach and Handel. In reality, Colpeper's lectures are actually a passionate address to the cinema going audience of A Canterbury Tale urging us to see the real thing.



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ACT Analysis

Post  Pilgrim on Fri 26 May 2017, 2:14 am

Here's an interesting "roundtable" discussion of A Canterbury Tale:



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ACT Analysis

Post  Pilgrim on Fri 26 May 2017, 2:15 am

A Canterbury Tale clearly encourages an escape to the country. On the hill, Alison asks Colpeper, "Why should people who love the country have to live in big cities? Something's wrong!" The pastoralism of ACT not only criticizes city life for its criminality, but also for its rampant capitalism. Crime is a brutal means of acquiring possessions, but capitalism diverts people from pastoral pleasures which would otherwise enrich their spirits. ACT privileges medieval artisans and their modern descendants in sequences featuring their shared traditions, such as when Bob Johnson and the wheelwright Jim Horton discuss trees. Through their mutual appreciation of nature, the two men not only bridge the cultural divide between America and England, but also the time gap between England's medieval past and its present way of life. Bob goes on to condemn greedy capitalists who "Can't stand to see their money lie idle a piece." Within pastoral thought, idleness is not a vice, but a virtue because it allows its rural celebrants to enjoy nature's restorative beauties. Through that idleness, communion is possible when communication might otherwise fail. By their joint appreciation of timber, the two men create a pastoral community that respects labour, yet is divorced from unfettered capitalism.



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ACT Analysis

Post  Pilgrim on Fri 26 May 2017, 2:16 am

A TALE OF TWO MOVIES

The Wizard of Oz is mirrored in A Canterbury Tale by symbolic structure and the similarities between the two movies is interesting. Both productions show four main characters - one female and three males who are on their way to a great city where wonderful things can happen. The protagonists travel together, but each one makes the journey for their own reason. The Old Road in ACT leads to the Cathedral City and the Yellow Brick Road in Oz leads to the Emerald City. The sight Alison Smith gets of Canterbury Cathedral from a distance is like the first view Dorothy Gale gets of the Palace of Oz. Both the recently unmasked "Glue Man" and "Wizard" try to help their respective fellow travellers in achieving their wishes. In the original ACT script, but deleted from the movie, there was a scene in the Chillingbourne army camp where the capture of Colpeper is announced and a soldier then sings "Heigh-Ho, the Glue Man's dead" to the Oz tune of "Ding Dong, the witch is dead." The main difference between ACT and Oz is that the Old Road leads to a real Cathedral City while the Yellow Brick Road leads to a green city that never existed.



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ACT Analysis

Post  Pilgrim on Fri 26 May 2017, 2:55 am

Michael Powell prepares to direct Dennis Price, Sheila Sim, and John Sweet for the long grass scene on Chilmans Downs.



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ACT Analysis

Post  Pilgrim on Fri 26 May 2017, 3:15 am

Michael Powell tells of cinematographer Erwin Hillier's love of cloudscapes which is a significant feature of A Canterbury Tale: "He detested a clear sky, and it sometimes seemed to me that he forgot about the story and the actors in order to gratify his passion." On location, Hillier would plead, "Meekee, Meekee, please wait another few minutes, there is a little cloud over there and it is coming our way, I'm sure it is." Powell later said of Hillier's filming of ACT: "He did a marvellous job."




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ACT Analysis

Post  Pilgrim on Fri 26 May 2017, 3:29 am

There is a powerful reminder in A Canterbury Tale of how war interrupts normal bucolic life when we see our protagonists on the hill. Colpeper and Alison are relaxing in the long grass enjoying a glorious view of Kent when they hear the sounds of war as personified in the appearance of Sergeant Bob Johnson and Sergeant Peter Gibbs. The two allied soldiers unwittingly disturb the tranquility of the nature loving couple who represent pastoral England during WW2.




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ACT Analysis

Post  Pilgrim on Fri 26 May 2017, 4:06 am

In A Canterbury Tale, Colpeper's sense of the pastoral is one in which England's Middle Ages illuminates present rural life giving it meaning. He believes by travelling on Chaucer's famous road, modern man re-enacts the rites of the old pilgrims and thus reacquaints himself with the past. Bob Johnson initially derides the relevance of the Middle Ages to the present after Alison is attacked by the Glue Man. He sarcastically tells Sergeant Bassett, "While you're looking us up in the Domesday Book, he's making a getaway." Likewise, Peter Gibbs ridicules Colpeper for "Digging up stuff which 600 years ago was thrown out as junk." At his institute, Colpeper lectures the soldiers of the importance of embracing the historical pastoral: "Well, there are more ways than one of getting close to your ancestors. Follow the old road, and as you walk, think of them and of the old England." With the projector casting a white light around his head, Colpeper hypnotically theorizes the past's enduring presence: "And when I turn the bend in the road where they too saw the towers of Canterbury, I feel I've only to turn my head to see them on the road behind me." Alison's face expresses an almost palpable response to his evocative words underlining how the woman whom he attacked as the Glue Man most appreciates his wisdom. Alison and Colpeper surpass their roles as victim and perpetrator and inspire each other with their visions of gender and history. In the final analysis, the primary mystery of ACT concerns not the Glue Man, but rather the Middle Age's luminous potential to live today.




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ACT Analysis

Post  Pilgrim on Fri 26 May 2017, 4:08 am

THIS TRIBUTE VIDEO CLIP IS BEST PLAYED AT A VERY LOW VOLUME




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ACT Analysis

Post  Pilgrim on Fri 26 May 2017, 5:16 am

John Sweet and Sheila Sim enjoying a break during the 1943 making of A Canterbury Tale.



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ACT Analysis

Post  Pilgrim on Fri 26 May 2017, 5:18 am

* THEY MEET AGAIN *



In the year 2000, Sheila Sim and John Sweet meet again in Canterbury.



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ACT Analysis

Post  Pilgrim on Sat 27 May 2017, 1:26 pm

The Criterion Collection Special Edition Double Disc DVD Set



A CANTERBURY TALE DVD CAN BE PURCHASED FROM EBAY.


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ACT Analysis

Post  Pilgrim on Mon 12 Jun 2017, 11:00 pm

This excellent book can still be purchased on the second hand market, but at a very high price.



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ACT Analysis

Post  Pilgrim on Sat 01 Jul 2017, 2:46 am

Review of A Canterbury Tale:

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ACT Analysis

Post  Pilgrim on Tue 01 Aug 2017, 2:27 am

World War Two provided an appropriate cultural climate for the movies of Powell and Pressburger in a similar way to a number of paintings executed by a group of artists who have been labelled Neo-Romantics. Both movies and paintings are visual media and it is through perception that they are evaluated. The common ground between movies and painting lies in the fact that they are both framed. Both also contain elements which can have similarities in tone, space, colour, line, mass, scale, including light and shade. By using those elements in various combinations, they possess a number of emotional potentials. The framing device employed in movies, painting, and even a mirror, acts as a process of selection for the spectator. A similar effect to that of the cinematograph can be obtained by watching a mirror in which a street scene is reflected. It at once takes on a visionary quality, and we become true spectators, not selecting what we will see, but seeing everything equally. Thereby we come to notice a number of appearances and relations of appearances, which would have otherwise escaped our notice. The frame of the mirror turns the reflected scene from one that belongs to our actual life into one that belongs to our imaginative life. The presence of the frame defines the spectator's image and the composition within the frame. The same principles apply to both movies and painting. The compositional unity of a painting contributes to the power of its image. Other compositional equivalents between movies and painting lie in the use of setting. The British landscape has long been used as an appropriate subject matter in painting, either as a result of nostalgic impulses or for patriotic purposes. By the 1940's, the Neo-Romantics, which included movie makers, were realising the potential of the landscape as a means of expressing an inner vision. The concern was less with the countryside itself than with the emotive landscape in the mind of the artist. Neo-Romantic settings consist of mountainous landscapes, angry skies, and lone figures dwarfed by their surroundings. Lighting can create mood, emotion, and atmosphere which are relevant. The contrast between light and shade creates chiaroscuro and that can emphasise solidity and form, thereby guiding an audience response. Movies use lighting set-ups to manipulate the image on the screen. In a similar way, an artist uses colour to create light and shade which has a corresponding effect. Lighting in both movies and painting provides a basis for observation, investigation, and analysis which relies on the senses and emotion rather than emphasising narrative significance. Powell and Pressburger in A Canterbury Tale successfully recorded the English home front during World War Two, giving the cinema audience a nostalgic vision of an important national heritage at a time of crisis.

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