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Classic Review: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)

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The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is the story of Clive Candy (and not, as I presumed, a Mr. Blimp). Through a set of 3 flashbacks, he is transformed from a young foolhardy man, just returning from Africa and the Boer War, all the way to a cranky, pot-bellied old man, fed up with the rowdy young guns filling the army.

Before watching I had read it was the Citizen Kane of British cinema. And after viewing, I cannot really disagree. Although there wasn’t anything drastically interesting about the plot, it was still an enjoyable movie. In fact, credit the Archers themselves, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger for making Candy a empathetic character. You cannot help but feel sorry for the man who, the only woman he ever loved ended up marrying his life-long German friend. Or there is the fact that every woman in his life from that point out is a shadow of his first love (all 3 women played by Deborah Kerr excellently). Or even the only relationship he has steadily had in his life is that with the military (and even that is not always perfect).

Cinematically speaking, my favorite two parts where the way they showed the passing of time. The first, where the flashbacks start, we see Old Man Candy fall into the pool only to resurface on the other side as Young Soldier Candy. The other is a particularly ingenious way to show, not only how time is passing but how the protagonist has spent his time. A blank wall is gradually covered with exotic animal heads, each with their proper name on a plaque below, along with the date. Through several quick cuts and no text or narration, we understand what has been happening.

And the end of the day, we are left with a portrait of an individual’s life with both the good and bad. But more than that, we see how one generation looks at the other often unfairly.

Rating: A-


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