The Masters  
The Powell & Pressburger Pages

Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.

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Submitted by Mark Fuller

A Chucerian Romance

From: The Times
18 May 1944

If this ambitious attempt to translate into modern terms the ancient spirit of pilgrimage is incompletely successful, the reason can only be that it lacks authentic inspiration.

     Mr. Michael Powell and Mr. Emeric Pressburger, who have written the story and directed its screening, do a meritorious job of work. They make their points and scorn to underline them. They photograph many miles of April Kentish countryside and every corner of Canterbury Cathedral with an admirable sense of pictorial values. But the luck never comes their way. The narrative takes no strongly imaginative turn, there are no sure and sudden strokes of imagery, no happy allusions, and their chronicle of spiritual adventure somehow fails to work up sufficient inner tension to justify its austere avoidance of commonplace romance.

     It is possible that the central fantasy should be either more humorous or more poetic. A Kentish magistrate has long sought an audience to whom he might communicate his own sense of the Kentish countryside and Kentish history. The war brings military camps to his doorstep, but because soldiers prefer courtship to county lectures the magistrate becomes the mysterious local pest who pours gum over the hair of girls walking at night with soldiers. Two soldiers, one American the other English, and a girl of the Land Army make it their business to unmask the "gum man." The processes of detection are unexciting, but the magistrate contrives to imbue his pursuers with his own mysticism. A blessing or a penance is the right true end of pilgrimage, and since the blessings come to all of them they are happy to leave him do penance without supervision by the police. Mr. Eric Portman's mysticism has a somewhat mundane quality, as though it might at any moment become espionage, but he can always dominate the scene, and Sergeant John Sweet and Miss Sheila Sim agreeably moralize the Pilgrim's Way to Canterbury.

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