Salvation Army


Is this the strangest film produced by (and about) an Allied nation during WWII? So much of what’s hauntingly unique about Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s films is the blithe mating between Powell’s visual emotionalism and Pressburger’s completely off-kilter stories. This 1944 wartime nutlog seductively modernizes the Chaucerian pilgrim paradigm, dreamily captures the Kent countryside, and invokes a sweet, melancholy sense of abiding life proceeding in wartime that few films did, but the primary plotline involves a serial harasser who dumps glue into the hairs of local girls to, we find out later, ethnocentrically dissuade them from dating the boys from the local army base. It’s as berserk a MacGuffin as any in cinema, but also accompanies an unpredictable frankness, what with the discussion of sexual misconduct, premarital sexuality (Sheila Sim’s “land girl” reminisces at length about the weeks she spent in a “caravan” with her boyfriend, now M.I.A.), and glib reference to pot. This ultra-lyrical film never seems at odds with itself, and the final 25 minutes, when the pilgrims’ odysseys come to their conclusive salvations, feel like a benediction. The supplements include a Victor Burgin video installation piece and Humphrey Jennings’s 1942 agitprop short Listen to Britain.