Watch: A Canterbury Tale 1944 123movies, Full Movie Online – A ‘Land Girl’, an American GI, and a British soldier find themselves together in a small Kent town on the road to Canterbury. The town is being plagued by a mysterious “glue-man”, who pours glue on the hair of girls dating soldiers after dark. The three attempt to track him down, and begin to have suspicions of the local magistrate, an eccentric figure with a strange, mystical vision of the history of England in general and Canterbury in particular..
Plot: Three modern day pilgrims investigate a bizarre crime in a small town on the way to Canterbury.
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A gentle gem that defies description
The major disadvantage when recommending this film to someone is that it’s practically impossible to describe! It’s easy enough to say what it *isn’t*: it’s not a detective story and it’s certainly not a thriller, despite the fact that it nominally revolves around an unsolved crime. It’s not a war-story, despite the fact that it is set immediately before D-Day and the main characters are intimately involved in the war effort. It’s not a romance, despite the fact that two of the characters have an unhappy love-story. And it’s not the Chaucerian epic one might be led to expect by the title and the opening scene – although by the end, the pilgrimage allusions turn out to be rather more strangely apt then they at first appear.
The only word I can find to give a flavour of this story is that it is above all English – as English as Ealing comedy (without the comedy), as Miss Marple (without the murder), as Elizabeth Goudge (without the magic)… and yet again I find myself defining it by what it *isn’t*! It’s English in a way that is quietly, deeply antithetical to the frenetic posturing of ‘Cool Britannia’. It is as English as the haze over the long grass beneath the trees of a summer meadow; as polished brass and a whiff of steam as the express pulls up at a country halt; as church bells drifting in snatches on a lazy breeze, and the taste of blackberries in the sun.
It’s almost impossible now to comprehend that the 1940s countryside in which this film is set was *really there*; that it was not the Second World War but its crippling aftermath that industrialised farms, banished the horse-drawn vehicles from the wheelwright’s, and exchanged towering hay-wains for silage towers. Britain was determined never to starve again – and so the world that had once differed so little from that of Chaucer’s time was swept away beyond recall. When it was made, this film was no more a rustic period piece than ‘Passport to Pimlico’, a few years later, was an urban social documentary. Subsequent events have preserved both in mute evidence of contemporary communities that are almost unbelievable today.
It is perhaps fair, therefore, to assume that the type of viewer who will watch ‘Battlefield Earth’ is unlikely to find this film anything other than silly, parochial and ultimately dull! Very little actually happens. The story is on occasion both humorous and poignant, but what we at first assume to be the central plot turns out not to be the point at all. The triple denouement is set up so gently and skilfully that we, too, are taken by miraculous surprise, with the true shape of the film only evident in retrospect.
It is, ultimately, a story about faith, and miracles, and pilgrimages, even in the then-modern world of shopgirls, lumbermen and cinema organists – and if that idea in itself sounds enough to put you off, as I confess it would have done for me before I watched it myself, then I will gladly add that it is a film about beauty, and hope, and unexpected friendship and laughter; and technically very accomplished to boot. The use of black and white is glorious, ranging from the glimmer in the obscurest of shadows to sun-drenched hillside, and the totally unselfconscious reference to Chaucer in the opening sequence is in these days worth the price of admission alone.
If you like gentle films – sweet-natured films – films with a deep affection for their subject – films that make you laugh and cry, but always smile – then I urge you not on any account to miss this one. If, for the moment, you require thrills, spills, forbidden passions and last-minute rescues, then pass it by and let it go on its tranquil way. When you are old and grey and full of sleep, this unassuming classic will still be there, waiting…
Charm (Scarecrow Staked Here: spoilers herein)
Although I’ve heard that Michael Powell chose, over a skirt-slashing Colpeper, to instead have him be The Glueman, his choice is, I think, serendipitous. The Glueman is not just the (superficially, as most post-modern critics mistake about him and about so many other characters in earlier films – about which more later) repressed sexual pervert Glueman, but he’s also the Clueman. Yes, he’s vaguely sinister, but he provides the glue that diverts the film’s younger, war-preoccupied characters from their immediate concerns, and he suggests the clues that connect them to the heritage (some of us Yanks know the words of ‘Land Of Hope And Glory’ because England/Britain is undeniably, in many respects, our Mother Country) that has shaped them and made them who they are – and to the Civilization for which they’re fighting.
Too many of today’s critics obsess about the “Lesbian” farm woman whose character, in the 1940’s, would have been ordinary and been regarded as being ordinary: a woman raised under the sterner discipline and mores of her day, with no-nonsense, no-b.s. values of virtue, obligation and hard work – and of getting to the point. It’s postmodernists’ affectation to automatically suspect doughty, matter-of-fact women characters – any eccentric women characters whom their postmodernist Miss Jean Brodie nonsense has bent them to suspect of fitting their screwy postmodernist (i.e., most often Marxisant, but often also Romantic) worldview – in earlier films of being “Lesbians.” This woman is, consummately, a farmer who has to consider pragmatically what all farmers have always had to consider: how to smartly, efficiently work their land to its top yield against time and weather, pests and parasites, poachers and market conditions; there’s nothing “Lesbian” about any of her singleminded agrarian pragmatism, or about her unremarkable – for her day – country ladies’ sartorial choice, or even about her puffing a cigarette.
‘A Canterbury Tale’ isn’t among the best of Powell & Pressburger’s efforts; but it doesn’t fall far short of their best. In a spot or two the plot plods, but then plodding was the pace of the Kentish countryside, so I think that it’s only to our early third millennium sensibilities that it seems to plod. Seldom has black & white cinematography managed, as it manages here, to communicate through chiaroscuro the pilgrims’ unease, and through the blessed splendor of sunlit, cloud-garlanded vistas of the Weald of Kent their respite.
As the Glueman strives to communicate the pace, sensibilities, and sensations of Chaucer’s pilgrim’s time, so too must we latter-day viewers accommodate our viewing of this film to the pace, sensibilities, and sensations of its period and setting: once we’ve done that – which demands of us no extraordinary effort – the legendary, enduring Powell & Pressburger magic works its spell.
From the outset I found Sergeant Sweet’s unaffected acting well-suited to the storytelling. The Yanks whom Wartime Britons recall were probably more like Mike Roczinsky, yet among those “overpaid, overfed, oversexed, and over here” American “invaders,” among all those “brown jobs,” were young men quite like Sweet’s Bob Johnson. Dennis Price’s manner is a bit too aristocratic for his portrayal of a sergeant, but on the whole Price’s thespian gifts help him to carry off his role very well. Sheila Sim gives a perfectly iconic portrayal of a young woman of her time: bereaved but not crushed; proud yet considerate; tender yet not mawkish; vulnerable yet capable. Eric Portman’s Glueman is appropriately mysterious and mildly menacing and yet, in the ending we discover that he’s all along been a benign agent of illumination, the neutral but never indifferent catalyst, the benevolent spur to the young people’s sleuthing to know their present through their coming to touch their collective past; the Glueman is, if you think about his role in the narrative, rather God-like – or, if your prefer, rather Nature-like.
What’s lovely about the dénouement here is that it enchants without indulging in sodden kitschiness, and indeed that it enchants in spite of of its scant kitschy elements. In the end the Glueman vanishes from the pilgrim’s and our ken because he’s accomplished his task of cluing and gluing the pilgrims to their past, to the mystical dimension of Being in their Own Time as that Being can only have come about by dint of their having touched their Past in their Present, which is the predicate of their harboring good hope for their Future. This message, to people whom wartime exigencies shifted brusquely about en masse as people had hitherto never shifted about, may have rung in ‘A Canterbury Tale’s’ contemporary audiences a chord of sentimental longing and welcome reassurance.
This is a thoroughly English film best appreciated when one knows that Powell grew up in rural Kent and that he loved his home county’s loveliness as only a native can and does love eternally his childhood home – and the verities it imparts early to him. In our present age of rapidly successive, plug-in and plug-out residential and professional transience – the first age of nigh-universal human rootlessness – ‘A Canterbury Tale’s’ blessing is its acquainting us with our 1940’s forebears’ more permanent, more grounded sense of themselves and their place in the world and in time, a sense which they felt the war had put under threat and had hurled them and their world, willy-nilly, into unsettling uncertainty. It seems unlikely that we – our species – shall ever again know the quiet certainties, tranquility, and satisfaction of lifelong residence in, or near, our birthplaces. Until our time urgency meant for people something quite different from what urgency means for us. If people before our hyper-active, attention-deficited, more artificial time were not more “authentic,” then they were certainly far less remote than we’ve become from Nature’s cycles and temper.
‘A Canterbury Tale’s’ charm is quiet, subtle, and in the end it’s sensual, mystical, illuminating, and eternally dear. Pity that few have nowadays the time or the temper for such charm.
Original Language en
Runtime 2 hr 4 min (124 min)
Rated Not Rated
Genre Comedy, Drama, Mystery
Director Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Writer Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Actors Eric Portman, Sheila Sim, Dennis Price
Country United Kingdom
Production Company N/A
Sound Mix Mono (Western Electric Recording) (uncredited)
Aspect Ratio 1.37 : 1
Laboratory Denham Laboratories, UK (uncredited)
Film Length 3,420 m (UK)
Negative Format 35 mm
Cinematographic Process Spherical
Printed Film Format 35 mm