The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)

Three Strikes

To me, what‘s interesting about this are the many different, completely different ways one can approach it.

For most folks, at the time this was made, it dealt with deep national issues of identity and war.

For most others fifty years later, this is a character study of an apparently comic fellow, who we discover is invitingly sympathetic.

For some others, it is about “Nobody fights foul unless they know there is no other way to win.” Politics in the US has sunk to the most depraved levels on one of our political parties starting a decade ago since this message rings.

For me, those narrative fuses are already damp and what I see is a firecracker love story. Here is a man who loves a woman so, that he is willing first to do anything for her happiness, and then be not-quite content enough with someone who barely resembles her.

This is delicate storytelling, like everything the Archers did. These are filmmakers who at their peak created one of the best films of all time, “Red Shoes.” The way that the narrative was enfolded to emphasise the layers is pretty deft. It is not obvious and always in the service of engagement.

This is an early project in the partnership, and you can see one of the most influential effects in film being established. Powell was in love with Deborah Kerr, and wove this whole enterprise around her. Kerr is redheaded, and in fact it is her defining feature. Redheads were already part of the film vocabulary even well before colour. But with Technicolor, they became something loved for visual effect, beyond the attached personality characteristics. Many famous actresses were asked to colour themselves red.

Watch this for an example of a filmmaker building a film about love around the woman he loves. And see how it greatly articulated a meme that still moves through the film grammar, growing in strength. It is both thrilling and important.

Posted in 2008

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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