Image: Cloister of Canterbury Cathedral.
Christian House wrote for The Telegraph of 30 August 2014:
“ ‘A Canterbury Tale had grown organically in our minds,” wrote Michael Powell in his memoirs, “but it was not understood, or even enjoyed, until some 30-odd years later.” When the enigmatic film director and his partner Emeric Pressburger – together known as The Archers – released their ethereal detective story about wartime “pilgrims”, audiences were bemused. Now, 70 years later, A Canterbury Tale is considered a classic of British cinema, but the road to its redemption was long…
A Canterbury Tale reappeared, at a Powell and Pressburger retrospective at the National Film Theatre in 1978, championed by the film scholar Ian Christie. It was declared “the most beautiful outdoor production of its period”. Meanwhile, Martin Scorsese, who had grown up watching their films on television, began lauding their achievements. The revival of their reputation had begun.
“You get the sense that anything could happen, was going to happen, right there in a Powell-Pressburger film,” stated Scorsese. He reintroduced Powell (whose career had dried up since Peeping Tom in the Sixties) to Hollywood. Scorsese also presented Powell to his editor, Thelma. They married in 1984.
“Scorsese loves A Canterbury Tale,” says Schoonmaker. “Perhaps his favourite moment is when the three characters are on the train to Canterbury, and a glow of light suddenly bursts up behind the head of Dennis Price. That inspired him to do something similar in several films. Scorsese examines cities more than the countryside. But he makes you feel that city environment in a special way – just as Michael makes you feel the countryside in a special way in A Canterbury Tale.”