SASY Wrap #6 – The Unwrapable Sassington

Because we love fun, we always try to shoehorn “SASY Wrap” into the subtitles of these roundup posts, but I’m guessing the reference here is lost on a lot of readers. It’s a reworking of The Unbearable Bassington, a short novel by the early 20th century British writer H.R. Munro, better known as Saki. Though not as good as his short stories, the novel is still a razor-sharp dig at British society — particularly upper-middle class society —  a comedy of manners with some real teeth and heartbreak. And that’s why it seemed so appropriate for this SASY Wrap, as Great Britain finally enters the picture with a bang. Nearly half of the 10 films we will discuss here are British movies that alternately question, criticize, and celebrate Britain. But it is not just the British who are ascendant in this period; in a welcome reversal from our last batch of 10, nine of the films below are not American productions (well, maybe eight and half depending on how you classify Once Upon a Time in the West). Nine of the films below were also made during the second half of World War II, showing that as the Nazis were being pushed back a new artistic flowering was happening across Europe. But before we get into all that, as tradition demands, our  respective (and for once quite different) rankings of the last 10 films:

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J.

1. Brief Encounter (1945) 1. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
2. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) 2. Day of Wrath (1943)
3. Day of Wrath (1943) 3. “I Know Where I’m Going!” (1945)
4. Rome, Open City (1945) 4. A Canterbury Tale (1944)
5. A Canterbury Tale (1944) 4. Rome, Open City (1945)
6. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) 6. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
7. “I Know Where I’m Going!” (1945) 7. Ivan the Terrible, Part I (1944)
8. Ivan the Terrible, Part I (1944) 8. Brief Encounter (1945)
9. Children of Paradise (1945) 9. Children of Paradise (1945)
10. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) 10. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

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#183 (tie) – “I Know Where I’m Going!” (1945), dir. Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger

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He’ll take the high road. Wendy Hiller and Roger Livesey star in this charming romantic comedy from Britain’s great filmmaking duo as a social-climbing young woman and a down on his luck Scottish laird.

With “I Know Where I’m Going!” we yammerers are already through half of Powell & Pressburger’s six entries on the Sight & Sound list. But with our chronological approach that’s hardly surprising, given that the duo scored a list-worthy movie a year for six consecutive years. “I Know Where I’m Going!” is something of a departure from the previous films we have discussed, if only because it is much more straightforward and fast-paced than the epic Colonel Blimp or the genial A Canterbury Tale, but it is not without a serious dash of whimsy and visual flair — hallmarks of those earlier films. The story follows Joan Webster, an ambitious woman who has been working to rocket up the social ladder since she was a toddler. She is about to be married to a wealthy industrialist about twice her age, and heads up to the Scottish Hebrides islands for the ceremony. But stormy weather waylays her and throws her in the company of Torquil MacNeil, a Royal Navy officer and Scottish laird of little fortune. Well, you can probably guess the rest of the story, but what “I Know Where I’m Going!” lacks in unpredictability it more than makes up for with excellent humor, beautiful cinematography, and a playful surrealist streak that makes the most of its fairytale setting among the peaks and heather. Continue reading