Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s beloved classic A Canterbury Tale is a profoundly personal journey to Powell’s bucolic birthplace of Kent, England. Set amid the tumult of the Second World War, yet with a rhythm as delicate as a lullaby, the film follows three modern-day incarnations of Chaucer’s pilgrims—a melancholy “landgirl,” a plainspoken American GI, and a resourceful British sergeant—who are waylaid in the English countryside en route to the mythical town and forced to solve a bizarre village crime. Building to a majestic climax that ranks as one of the filmmaking duo’s finest achievements, the dazzling A Canterbury Tale has acquired a following of devotees passionate enough to qualify as pilgrims themselves
A one time studio gofer, still photographer, and comic actor, Michael Powell became one of the most celebrated and controversial directors ever to come out of England. Born in Canterbury, Powell became enamored of films while still a teenager and, after a start in the mid-’20s and a stint shooting stills and serving as a co-scenarist with Alfred Hitchcock in the early sound era, Powell broke into directing in low-budget British thrillers and comedies. After directing and writing his first notable movie in 1937, The Edge of the World, he moved to London Films where he began working with Emeric Pressburger, a gifted young author and screenwriter. Their two-decade association began shortly after they left London Films (where they collaborated on The Spy in Black and Powell co-directed The Thief of Bagdad). The wartime thrillers Contraband and Forty-Ninth Parallel, the latter attracted much attention (including Oscar nominations for Best Picture and best original story), resulted in the… read more
The screenwriter half of the Powell/Pressburger team in association with Michael Powell, Hungarian-born Emeric Pressburger was a journalist before coming to films as a screenwriter in the late ‘20s. After working at Germany’s UFA studios for several years, he fled after Hitler’s rise to power and eventually came to England, where he joined London Films as a screenwriter and began his association with Michael Powell, a gifted young English filmmaker. The two worked together on The Spy in Black, and after leaving London Films, formed a filmmaking partnership, known corporately as The Archers, in which they shared joint screenwriter-producer-director credit. Their collaborations together included 49th Parallel, One of Our Aircraft Is Missing, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, A Canterbury Tale, I Know Where I’m Going, Stairway to Heaven (A Matter of Life and Death), Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes, The Small Back Room, and The Tales of Hoffmann, most of which were extremely successful… read more
I'd say the entire scene on the hill and the "blessings" at the end make this worth watching, but it has a hard time getting beyond the "What's cookin?"/"I beg your pardon?" culture-clash eye-rollers. The Archers were saddled with heavy propaganda during the war years that didn't do justice to the subtle film-making they could produce, which here only comes in small doses.
Like much of Powell and Pressburger's masterpieces, this is unclassifiably unique and is unlike anything I've ever seen. Though there is a vague sense of plot, the feeling of place, atmosphere, emotion and character is remarkably concrete. Beautiful, mysterious and very moving.
The Archers regarded ‘A Canterbury Tale’ as their first failure, in Powell’s words they ‘came a cropper’. From this distance that assessment seems overly harsh as this is a piece of cinema that rewards… read review
This quiet film from 1944 deals in themes of penance, redemption, and salvation.
Directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger create a bucolic portrait of the English countryside during wartime… read review