Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 21 August 2015

My very favourite film

Take the usual ingredients: a wilful heroine, an unconventional leading man, supporting characters we like and want to see more of, mix in the mystical highlands of Scotland, add in some Scottish castles, Scottish dances and songs, and the result is perfection. 
"Yes, but money isn't everything" ... That is probably the key line in I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING - Powell & Pressburger's timeless romantic fantasy from 1945 (the year I was born). The very independent Joan Webster who wants to marry a rich man travels up to the highlands on her way to the remote island of Kiloran which the millionaire has rented, but a storm forces her to stay on the mainland, at Erraig the house of Catriona (whose husband is away in the Far East, and children at boarding school), the war must be still on. Also staying is a friend of Catriona's Torquil whom Joan realises she is falling for, hence her desire to get away to the island. Navy officer Torquil [who is the real Laird of Kiloran] realising her dangerous plan to go out to sea in the storm helps her but the storm defeats them and the weary travellers arrive back at the house where Catriona puts Joan to bed in her own room with a roaring fire. (how wonderful it seems now to have real fires in bedrooms!). Catriona soon puts Joan to rights as Joan thinks that all these highland people are poor because they have no money so why doesn't Catriona sell her house Erraig, and their neighbour Mrs Crozier could sell her estate Achnacroish and Torquil could sell Kiloran - Catriona thinks about it and then says decisively "yes, but money isn't everything".  
The early scenes are marvellous too, at that fancy restaurant with Joan and her father and her trip by train to the Highlands - this was the real age of rail travel with sleeping compartments and attentive stewards. 
The next morning sees the storm abated, Joan has come to her senses as she sits on the table and says "I can't do a thing with my hair" and wonders where her wedding dress is (it was lost in the storm) to which Torquil replies "a mermaid will get married in it". The boat from Kiloran finally arrives to collect her, but will she have a change of heart? .... enter 3 pipers and the most perfect ending imaginable.

There is also that lovely detour to the Castle of Sorne to visit some snobby neighbours whom the pompous millionaire thinks are the only people worth knowing locally - it is the most perfect location with that high window seat (and young Petula Clark is the daughter) and then there is that lovely interlude at Achnacroish with Rebecca Crozier (Nancy Price) who sees Joan's worth at once and we have the highland dancing as the magic works on Joan. Torquil who is also there explains "highland economics" to Joan - letting Kiloran for three years means he can live there for six - and the millionaire installing a swimming pool means that "money spent is money earned" for the local workmen whom they travel with on the bus. The highlands scenes are marvellously shot, as we visit Tobermoreyand the Western Isles Hotel, and the Isle of Mull. 
These are just some moments from this lovely film, which grows on one at each viewing. The cast are all superb: Wendy Hiller as Joan, Roger Livesey (that voice!) as Torquil (he was not actually at the highland locations due to being in a play in London - his scenes are interiors, with a stand-in for location shots), Nancy Price as Mrs Crozier and that very individual actress Pamela Brown as Catriona, the resourceful woman managing on her own, in that perfect 1940s house, while her husband and children are away (she was Powell's lover at the time and until her death aged 58 in 1975) - her entry here with her dogs and gun and a rabbit presents her like Diana the huntress - as she says "if I don't shoot this rabbit then I don't eat"! She and Torquil are old friends and she soon realises the attraction between him and Joan. Hiller is delightful too as Joan who is used to getting her own way (as set out in the breezy introduction). The climax with the ruined castle and that curse and the highland tune are also just right. I also like the great photography with those great black and white images [like WHISKEY GALORE that other great film shot in Scotland in the '40s]. A film to cherish then, it may well be my favourite film of all. Like THE QUIET MAN or THE SEARCHERS it's admirers are legion and devoted, just like for Powell's others like BLACK NARCISSUSA MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH and THE RED SHOES all of which I also love dearly.

No comments:

Post a Comment