film 2 of 7

The 49th Parallel

Draft Review by Dean Duncan Jun 29, 2015

After the economy of the Viedt/Hobson films, here begin the extravagant leaps (eccentric flab?) that eventually culminate in the looney mastery of Red Shoes/Hoffman, and which I guess eventually culminate in the end of the Archers, it may be the location shooting that leaves first things clumsy, or the slightly cartoony Germans, but after the fun of the Bay outpost (Olivier nearly pulls an acting muscle, but still sticks it to Naziism by his happily o’er-picturesque turn), especially as with the rosary they start to elaborate the sympathetic German which the other films testify reflects their true hopes and feelings, things get more underway, so to speak; this remains a long wandering thing, which makes sense for several reasons: it seems to have been made as a tribute to/sop for the Canadians, and so lots of time is devoted to the featuring of backgrounds (very nice, too), more importantly there is the mostly-successful and completely worthy structural innovation of following the antagonists, by which switch I guess that landscape going by in the background–Canada–becomes the good guy after all, and the multiple location becomes the single sensibility, with the change though, we have highlights rather than a totality, though fine highlights they certainly are; a very suspenseful plane crash, the whole Hutterite section with its moving witness to the redeemability of the erstwhile Nazi Vogel, who of course stands in for most of humanity–with the Portman character, as with the Schubert/Mendelssohn sequence in Col. Blimp, they remember that some humans cross the line so severely and wilfully as to deserve the damnation that’s coming to them–in fact the Hutterites show that Germany is still virtuous and lovely, only it now has to excercise its virtue in exile (other things happening; cf. the Mormons in Brigham Young), Walbrook gets a speech out through the fourth wall that’s as naked and good hearted as Chaplin’s ’40 turn, and a little smarter too, I liked the preposterous prairie walk, Banff, the Howard bit is quite strange, and a tad symbolic for easy swallowing, the end quite makes up, with Massey’s delighted theatrical proto-hoser turn, which pleasantly recommends idle escapism providing/assuming that the layabout knows what right is and when to stand up for it (cf. things like This Gun for Hire, movie version), and which even leaves the Americans on the side of the angels