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The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp(1943)
An aging military man looks back on the loves and friends who shaped his life.
For more about The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and the The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp Blu-ray release, see the The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on January 1, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Deborah Kerr, Anton Walbrook, Roger Livesey, Ursula Jeans, Roland Culver, James McKechnie
Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
» See full cast & crew
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, January 1, 2013
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" (1943) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of French distributors Carlotta Films. The supplemental features on the disc include a short introduction by director Martin Scorsese; a documentary on the history of the film; discussion of the film with Thelma Schoonmaker Powell; and a collection of production stills. In English, with optional French subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
The film is structured as a series of flashbacks that chronicle the friendship between two men: Clive Wynne-Candy (Roger Livesey, The League of Gentlemen) and Theodore Kretschmar-Schuldorff (Anton Walbrook, The Red Shoes). The former is a patriotic British officer, the latter an equally loyal to his country German officer.
The two men meet when Candy arrives in Berlin to confront Kaunitz (David Ward), a brash German spy, who according to the beautiful English teacher Edith Hunter (Deborah Kerr, An Affair to Remember) is spreading lies about her beloved country. In a local café, Candy challenges Kaunitz and then publicly insults the officers of the Imperial German Army. Kaunitz chooses the young and naive Theo to defend his honor in a duel. While fighting, Candy and Theo both suffer serious injuries and end up in the same hospital, where they eventually become friends. Before they leave the hospital, Theo also confesses to Candy that he has fallen in love with Edith.
The two men meet again during WWI. While in France, Candy meets a much younger than him nurse named Barbara, who looks a lot like Edith, and later on marries her in England. Sometime after that, Candy tracks down Theo in a prison camp, but his old friend ignores him. Before he returns home, Theo changes his mind pays Candy a visit.
During WWII, Edith dies before she and Theo could leave Nazi Germany. Theo arrives in England as a refugee and his old friend vouches for him before the immigration authorities.
This most beautiful film directed by the legendary duo Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, which Winston Churchill once wanted banned, offers a fascinating examination of British values and culture. At its core, the film also mourns an entire era that was replaced by a new one during which cynicism and populism were embraced in the name of patriotism.
The entire second half of the film focuses on Candy's struggle to accept the changes that are reshaping his country. His conviction that there are honorable men on the other side, some possibly fighting for the same reasons his countrymen are, is one of the key "subversive" messages in the film. In the midst of the war Candy is something of a dinosaur whose views feel disappointingly outdated, dangerously anti-patriotic.
The second "subversive" message - which must have been the main reason why Churchill was infuriated by the film and tried to stop it - suggests that ideas and policies alone cannot be used to condemn people or justify wars, simply because they are not and cannot be universally accepted by everyone. The many interactions Candy has with Theo, for instance, promote a degree of tolerance that was undoubtedly quite unusual in 1943, which is when the film was completed. Giving the enemy a human face was not something British officials wanted to see in a film that was expected to support their policies.
Of course, the film also tells a beautiful romantic story that is also rather unusual. There are fascinating Bunuel-esque overtones throughout the film which at times give it a very atmospheric feel. Kerr, who plays the three beautiful women in Candy's life, is absolutely spectacular.
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp was photographed by Georges Perinal, who won an Oscar for his contribution to The Thief of Bagdad. Throughout his career Perinal worked with some of Europe's greatest directors, such as Rene Clair (Le Million), Jean Cocteau (The Blood of a Poet), Carol Reed (The Fallen Idol), and Alexander Korda (An Ideal Husband).
The film's excellent soundtrack was composed by Allan Gray (The African Queen, Stairway to Heaven).
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of French distributors Carlotta Films.
The high-definition transfer has been sourced from the same master ITV Studios had access to when they prepared their Blu-ray release of The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp in the United Kingdom. Needless to say, the film looks quite spectacular on Blu-ray. However, there are a few very minor discrepancies between the two releases. Generally speaking, the reds appear slightly more prominent on the UK release, while here they are toned down and better balanced with the greens and browns. Brightness levels are also slightly elevated on the Carlotta release (compare screencapture #3 with screencapture #4 from our review of the UK release). The difference is marginal at best, but when one compares the two releases it is easy to spot. Detail, depth and fluidity are identical on the two releases. There are no traces of excessive degraining or post-production sharpening corrections. Compression is also very good. All in all, this is easily one of the very best releases in Carlotta Films' impressive catalog. If you are a French speaker, you need to have it in your collection. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray release: English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0. For the record, Carlotta Films have provided optional French subtitles for the main feature.
The lossless track is outstanding. The music is lush and well rounded, never sounding thin, while the dialog is crisp, stable, and extremely easy to follow. There is absolutely no background hiss. Also, there are no audio dropouts or distortions to report in this review.
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If you are a French speaker, you absolutely need to have this beautiful Blu-ray release of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp from Carlotta Films in your collection. Recently restored in 4K, the film looks stunning on Blu-ray. This release also contains an excellent video interview with Thelma Schoonmaker Powell which is not included on the UK release. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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