Fort Augustus
A Canterbury Tale

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, UK, 1944, 124 mins, Cert U

Screening at: Fort Augustus, Mon 3rd August 6:30p:m   |   Nairn, Sat 8th August 2pm

Still from the movieA British sergeant, a land girl and a bluff American GI are on the road to a village in Kent. It’s the early 1940s. Invasion is looming but that doesn’t quite explain the portent and gloaming. Someone is putting glue in the hair of girls who have a fondness for GIs – the sort of crime you find in a fairytale. The pilgrims fall under the spell of this place and this mystery.

The great cinematographer of I Know Where I’m Going!, Erwin Hillier, again makes light magic and Alfred Junge designs. Emeric Pressburger’s dialogue has a citrus tang: “I know that in Canterbury I have to look out for a cathedral”. “Yes do look out for it. It's just behind the movie theatre. You can't miss it.” And, perhaps even more than in The Red Shoes or A Matter of Life and Death, he and Michael Powell are dealing with the sort of unconscious material that surrealists love.

A Canterbury Tale influenced Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven, starring Richard Gere, and it’s hard not to think of the modern Austrian director Michael Haneke, who just won the top prize in Cannes, when you watch it. But Powell and Pressburger’s film is, on top of its other pleasures, a masterpiece about love, faith, and the value of our human history set within the practical magic of nature itself: revered, responsive and reliable to the end.

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