November 17th 2012. Pick Of The Day.

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Tempted to award my Pick Of The Day to Antonio Marhgeriti's "Gamma-One" series, which earns a marathon sreening at, where else, Anthology Film Archives as part of their From The Warner Archives retrospective. I've only ever seen WAR OF THE PLANETS on the 4:30 Movie on channel 7 as a kid, and found it so mind bending it actually made me aware of the existence of mind altering substances before I'd ever officially heard of LSD. Put it this way; Margheriti finished four of these flicks in three months. I can only imagine what the result of attending an all-day unspooling of the series would be, but I decline
in favor of an actual masterpiece.

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger were the class of the British film industry during the war as well as two of the safest bets at the box office. Once Churchill mandated that propaganda was the first order of the Brit film biz producers like J. Arthur Rank and Alexander Korda transformed the industry overnight into Goebbels' nemesis. No pair attacked this task with greater zeal and creativity than P&P, collectively known as The Archers. Amongst their finer works of this period were ONE OF OUR AIRCRAFT IS MISSING, THE 49TH PARALLEL, and the seamless masterpiece of stoic heartbeark THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP, the latter a controversial propaganda piece for daring to present a befuddled British solider's long term friendship with his likable German counterpart. For this reason, this insertion of uneasy and puzzling real life into gleaming Technicolor movie magic, they were approached to make some sort of post war cinematic reconciliation between America and Britain, nudged to put their considerable talents somewhat eccentric toward the goal of bringing these two nations and their peoples so long divided finally together after the long painful trudge they'd just shared. The Archers thought and thought and thought, and finally concocted their finest two hours I argue, not merely a brokered marraige between once sworn enemies but a love story like no other, a championing of the right to one's very own existence, and perhaps the most romantic film ever made. If my favorite film of all time, THE THIRD MAN, reminds me of all the world's shortcomings and disillusions yet never leaves me sad, then this film emboldens my optimism like no other.

A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH concerns a WW2 British airman who's number is up, but due to a celestial cock-up finds himself alive and well and newly and madly in love. But the fates come a' callin', and the resulting battle for the right to live and love bests even Kubrick's 2001 as the cinema's greatest valentine to the human race. David Niven woos American WAC Kim Hunter, while Roger Livesey must save this poor chap's destiny from Marius Goring's flamboyant Conductor. It's all just so terribly terribly, but I defy you not to brim with just a bit more hope for the human spirit at the film's conclusion.

I grew up with this flick under its U.S. title, STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN, and I loved it for its fantasy aspects. I rediscovered it once I began my first true study of Michael Powell and was pleasantly surprised to learn that the PEEPING TOM auteur was behind one of my fave childhood movies, and also at the subtexts I'd missed the first time. Now after having lived with this movie most of my life I do decree it the cinema's most ardent advocate of its very audience, and of the greatness we may achieve in our loves both selfish and selfless. Whether the action is taking place within the troubled protagonist's head or in the celestial court of the heavens, the film purports, is irrelevant; these arenas are one and the same.

A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH screens today at 6pm on the Landmark Jersey Loews' giant 50 foot screens and will knock you on yer ass it's so awesome an experience! Hope you can make it. Follow me on Twitter! Like me on Facebook.com/NitrateStock! Jojn the Facebook group! Do SOMETHIN' knucklehedz! Stay safe and sound and keep volunteering/donating to Sandy's victims! Yer tha goodz!

 

-Joe Walsh