Restorations

When The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) became available at Netflix, I noticed that British icon Michael Powell co-directed it with his frequent collaborator Emeric Pressburger. I added it to my watch list even though the running time is 2:46. These days I have a tendency to nod off, so the shorter the work the better. Still, any film that has Powell’s name attached to it is a must-see for movie lovers. I did fall asleep for about a half hour, but what I saw was frequently impressive. It is the story, told mostly in flashback, of the 40-year military career of Clive Candy, who eventually rises to General. So who, then, is Colonel Blimp? This required research. Here is the opening of the Wiki profile, edited by yours truly: “… a British cartoon character by David Low, first drawn in 1934. Blimp is pompous, irascible, jingoistic, and stereotypically British, identifiable by his walrus mustache.” The name derives from a term used to describe the dialogue balloons in comics. I don’t recall having ever heard it and don’t know if it’s still used. Michael Powell went in a different direction from Low, creating a portrait of someone lovable, admirable in the old fashion British stiff upper lip sense, which no doubt was influenced by the time period, the existential struggle vs. the Nazis. It wouldn’t be wrong to label the film propaganda. The tone is entirely upbeat, which surprised the heck out of me given the title. As per usual in Powell’s work, it is visually stunning, one of the UK’s earliest films in technicolor. There is a nod to the cartoonist in occasional animated scenes that blend into the action seamlessly. My favorite aspect was the use of Deborah Kerr in three roles: an early love Candy loses to a German officer with whom he duels; his wife; and his driver during WWII. It reflects, I surmise, that the image of who she was always remains with him. Anton Walbrook plays the rival. The two survive the duel unscathed and become lifelong friends, the latter fleeing his homeland when Hitler comes to power. Although Candy fights in several wars, there is little action. Dialogue and cinematography are the chief drivers of the narrative. My sense is that the film would appeal almost exclusively to cinephiles, which is contradicted by its rating at IMDb, where 12,000+ users forge to a consensus of 8.1 on a scale of ten. It is one of those works that probably improves with each viewing. Its screening history is interesting. It was chopped to pieces through the years. Churchill hated it. A 90-minute version ran often on PBS. Fortunately a full version was discovered in 1983 and restored. Powell is now considered among the greats. His other works include The Thief of Baghdad (1940), Black Narcissus (1947), The Red Shoes (1948) and Peeping Tom (1960), the latter of which Martin Scorsese credits as a major influence. Here’s Livesay in character, followed by one of David Low’s lampoons:

I’m one-third of the way through the first proof copy of the repackaged version of Exchanges, which will be re-titled Open Outcries. There are a lot more errors than I expected, then it occurred to me that I shouldn’t be surprised because it came from a file I’d saved to Google Docs, not the original publisher’s draft, and then transferred to Microsoft Word. Most of the corrections involve lack of paragraph indentation. There are hardly any other errors. The other changes involve wording I do not like. Not having read it since 2013, I’m enjoying it. Of course, that doesn’t mean others would. What little feedback I’ve received about it has been positive, though.

No wind, bright sunshine, the floating book shop was a go despite the temperature being in the 20’s. I wasn’t cold until late in the session when thin clouds rolled in. My thanks to the mom and daughter who bought Close to the Edge, and to Gloria, who purchased two epics by Stephen King: Storm of the Century and The Green Mile; and to the jovial gentleman who donated a batch of books, three in Russian, the others marketable non-fiction.

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vic fortezza

I was born in Brooklyn in 1950 to Sicilian immigrants. I’ve had more than 50 short stories published world wide. I have 13 books in print.