Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Almost pagan

Thanks to Nick Freeman, whose paper, "The Shrineless God: Paganism, Literature, and Art in Forties England," will appear in the next issue of The Pomegranate, I have been watching and reading some classics of literary, if not self-consciously religious, small-p paganism.

One was the film A Canterbury Tale, made during World War II by the writing-directing team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (a Hungarian refugee in England).

One appreciation of the film includes this comment: "Strange and poetic, A Canterbury Tale combined Christian metaphysics with a celebration of England's rural past that at times seemed almost pagan."

Powell and Pressburger also made The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, which Winston Churchill allegedly hated, about an honorable but intellectually hidebound British officer.

M. and I also enjoyed the Foyle's War series, set on the south coast of England early in World War II. I am starting to think that its writers mined the Powell-Pressburger vein--not for plots, but for plot elements. Just so far I have noticed these in episodes of Foyle's War:

1. A band of small boys collecting scrap paper for the war effort find a document that aids the protagonist (A Canterbury Tale.

2. An aging Army officer, now reduced to serving in the Home Guard, who is outwitted in a war game by a less scrupulous younger counterpart (Colonel Blimp).

Most of Powell and Pressburger's films are available as mail-order rentals through Video Library.


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