To Glimpse the Happy Isles: 'A Canterbury Tale' (once more!)

Church bells and Chaucer, an odd paperback mystery steeped in the soporific summertime light of the Weald’s meadows. A wartime propaganda picture might seem an unlikely choice for some rainy-day consolation, but then Powell and Pressburger’s A Canterbury Tale (1944) is a very unlikely wartime propaganda picture, even if makes fine, earnest overtures to the war effort, and courts Britain’s strong translatlantic Ally through a real life ‘acting’ US soldier. But this is the realm of the Archers who ‘started with naturalism and finished with fantasy’ – and right from the film’s glorious opening sequences where a medieval pilgrim’s falcon in flight turns into a swooping Spitfire, and the falconer into a foot-soldier, it all makes the kind of sense that’s hard to explain.   Its rambling plot and pedestrian pace – a canter, if you like – bemused viewers then and can bemuse viewers now. But somehow A Canterbury Tale will always strike me as the most strange, mystical, and personal-feeling of

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