A Canterbury Tale

Following is a quote taken from Xavier Amatriain, an engineering director for Netflix: “We know what you played, searched for, or rated, as well as the time, date, and device. We even track user interactions such as browsing or scrolling behavior. All that data is fed into several algorithms, each optimized for a different purpose.” Psssshaw, I say to that. All for naught. My Netflix recommendations are crap. Luckily, there are a few passionate humans left out there still making recommendations too. John Farr, who runs the website Best Movies by Farr, is one of the better ones, and judging from my first pass, I’ll bet his recommendations against that algorhym any day. The website is very well laid out and aesthetically pleasing, and the format for the reviews refreshingly simple and effective, so much so that I think I’ll steal it. He answers two simple questions: (1) What’s it about? and (2) Why we love it.  
Today, I chose A Canterbury Tale, a 1944 Archers film by Powell and Pressburger. Were I to create my own algorithm, I would want it to include finding any movies by those two, for it’s as close to a sure bet as you are likely to get. Other notable films by Powell and Pressburger include The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, I Know Where I’m Going, A Matter of Life and Death, and Black Narcissus
So what is the film about? It’s about a British land girl, a British Army Sergeant, and an American Army Sergeant brought together by circumstance and kept together by their shared desire to solve the mystery of “the glue man,” a mysterious figure who literally drops glue on the heads of unsuspecting females from the cover of bridges. What the movie is really about, however, is spiritual redemption through the trans-formative powers of the land and sacred places, such as Canterbury Cathedral. If you’re wondering how the mystery of the glue man possibly leads to redemption in the Cathedral, well, that is the genius of it.  
What I love about it. I love the way The Archers films incorporate transcendent themes. They remind me of Capra in that regard. Both do a very good job making movies as much about the forces surrounding the characters as about the characters themselves and without sacrificing character development or seeming overly didactic. Also, as mentioned above, I love the deftness of the way the narrative takes a right turn. It should be sharp and bizarre; the two have absolutely nothing to do with one another, and yet it manages to be anything but. It’s hard to imagine what the pitch might have been for this movie.  The component parts simply shouldn’t fit together as well as they do. Oh, and the cinematography is great too.
Well worth a watch. According to the Wiki entry, there’s an annual festival based around the film and its locations. I’d love to go to that.

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