Photograph: Courtesy Film ForumRoger Livesey in ‘The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp’
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The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

5 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

Of all the things to be nostalgic about, warfare would seem the least likely candidate, but that's the unusual perspective of this one-of-a-kind 1943 landmark---maybe the most wonderfully British movie ever made. A tender satire about the changing of the guard (and, prophetically, the dimming of an empire), The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp inflates an unlikely hero: a pompous gasbag of an officer, a survivor of three armed conflicts and multiple safaris. His name is Clive Candy (the lovable Livesey) and he only knows from the manly pursuits of military honor and uprightness. A 1902 duel scars his lip, but brings him a lifelong friend (Walbrook) and a handsome mustache to boot.

Already, the creation of such parody puts Blimp in loose company with a subverter like Robert Altman's MASH. (Winston Churchill despised the script and actually tried to get production halted.) But the movie's heartbreaking second half brings it above---and beyond---something like Grand Illusion, as gentlemanly fighting and treaty-making give way to WWII's clash for "your very existence." Candy blinks and sputters at the notion; how explosive it is that he is corrected (and hugged) by a German officer fleeing a homeland he no longer recognizes. In the moment of the picture's release, fighting fair wasn't an option; the provocative notion here is that it never was, nor was it ever unnecessary. Complex, unmissable.

Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf

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