The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) Directed by Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
Here we go again: another Nick's favorite turns out to be an old film about a gentleman at war (yes, there is a bit of dueling too). The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is a sort of 1940s English war effort support film. While watching it, I feel distinctly un-English – it is not my story in any way.
Yet, this is a film by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. There is the art of sets, photography, and detail to look at all through its epic length. Despite my initial boredom, the film holds some of the early movie magic (best experienced as a child); it looks better than most other films from any time, and it connects with its characters and feels genuine feelings. Martin Scorsese has lifted more than one scene and a way of shooting straight out of here.
Tragedy is often born out of dedication. Deborah Kerr plays almost all the women in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. Powell and Pressburger must really suffer from the obsession here described as Colonel Blimp's obsession. They all love her ginger hair and the fast talk that seems to come with it. This one-girl craze is a tad scary in the film and in the work of Powell and Pressburger at large. But I guess it is also romantic – it is the kind of dedication rarely portrayed as admirable these days.
Sometimes you just want to savor the most special things. Rationing helps. I left England 12 years ago for Helsinki, Finland. My reasons for leaving were certainly personal mixed with a general weariness about the place. I miss certain aspects about England very much. A certain kind of gentile behavior, humor, earnestness, naivety, that sense of goodness and reasonableness that is very British. The stiff upper lip mentality even. Ironically Finns often display the same attributes.
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp displays this Englishness more so than any other film I can recall. It always reminds me of my youth when people who actually fought in the World Wars were still around, those attitudes were still the order of the day. Of course, that sense of fair play was lost years ago. But you can go back to it in this picture. Not only does The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp give us some notions of nationality, it's also one of the most artful and subversive films I've ever seen. Lets not forget, no one ever used color like Powell & Pressburger.
Powell & Pressburger capture a certain English attitude in their cinema, but they also bought their amazing eye for detail and strong political conviction to bear. To think The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp was supposed to raise moral during the Second World War, the message here is so anti-war, yet beautifully subtle in its execution. In any context or age, this is certainly a strange original ride. But let's not forget this is a love story. You can fall in love with Deborah Kerr as three amazing women over and over. The great Roger Livesey and Anton Walbrook show us the true meaning of the words noble and gentlemen.
Like I said at the start. I ration the amount of times I will watch this film, just to keep it special. No more to add, all life is here.