The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
Dirs/Scrs/Prods: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Pho: Georges Périnal
Ed: John Seabourne Sr.
Prod Co.: Rank Organisation
Cast: Deborah Kerr, Roger Livesey, Anton Walbrook, Roland Culver, James McKechnie
UK / 1943 / Colour / DCP / English, French & German / English Subtitles / 163min
A war film, a love story, a cross-cultural bromance, Powell and Pressburger's dazzling 1943 epic defies categorisation, instead presenting a definitive meditation on what it means to be English. Taking its name from David Low's satirical cartoons, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp follows the career of officer Clive Candy (Roger Livesey), from his escapades after the Boer War, through WWI to his eventual retirement during the Blitz.
Politics takes a back seat to Candy's unflappable belief that "right is might", that respect for regulations will always prevail. This is most directly acknowledged in Candy's insistence that the Kaiser's dirty tactics could never have won The Great War. Candy's rank also ensures he maintains a safe distance from the squalor and dangers of front line warfare.
Despite the film's quintessential Britishness, Powell & Pressburger faced strong opposition from the War Office, who refused to release first choice star Laurence Olivier from active duty, or provide military support. They objected strongly to the sympathetic portrayal of Anton Walbrook's "good German" and Churchill allegedly saw an unflattering resemblance to himself in Candy's blustery general.
British audiences were left conflicted by a war film devoid of anti-Nazi rhetoric or propaganda, which resulted in an abridged, monochrome US release that robbed Blimp of its gorgeous Technicolor photography and poignant flashback structure. The full 163-minute version was reassembled in 1983, and has since undergone a painstaking restoration overseen by Martin Scorsese and Powell's widow, editor Thelma Schoonmaker.
Restoration by the Academy Film Archive in association with the BFI, ITV Studios Global Entertainment Ltd. (the current copyright holders) and The Film Foundation.
||Cinema, Hong Kong Film Archive
Post-screening talk with James Marsh (Conducted in English)
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