sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
sovay ([personal profile] sovay) wrote2017-03-10 02:00 am

I shall be back. We shall all be back

It is very satisfying to me to see that the contemporary resistance has noticed Leslie Howard's Pimpernel Smith (1941). The final soliloquy is as good as everyone remembers: haunting, numinous, spoken as prophecy in a year in which the outcome of World War II was far from assured. A thin-faced professor in the shadows of a railway station, unarmed at gunpoint, his eyes glinting like a cat's in the dark. An anti-Nazi picture made by a Jewish man during the Blitz, his quintessential Englishness carefully learned, deeply felt. He would not live to see the winning of the war which his character so confidently predicts: he vanished into history like the last word into a curl of cigarette smoke and stories spiraled up around his disappearance. He left the silver salt ghosts of a life on film, a curious foretelling of his own death in the fight against fascism. He was right.

"May a dead man say a few words to you, General, for your enlightenment? You will never rule the world, because you are doomed. All of you who have demoralized and corrupted a nation are doomed. Tonight you will take the first step along a dark road from which there is no turning back. You will have to go on and on, from one madness to another, leaving behind you a wilderness of misery and hatred, and still you will have to go on—because you will find no horizon, and see no dawn, until at last you are lost and destroyed. You are doomed, captain of murderers, and one day, sooner or later, you will remember my words."

I prefer the original British title, but I agree that the American poster is striking. If it brings more people to the movie even now, it's doing what it's supposed to. That ghost speaking out of the dark still has something to say.

kore: (Default)

[personal profile] kore 2017-03-10 01:06 pm (UTC)(link)
Wow, that is amazing.

And encouraging, since I looked at some very little news on Twitter last night and managed to drive myself into a frenzy in about ten minutes (like, the guy who said "You have to choose not to buy that iphone" bought a $500 phone with campaign money or something? Why are we not revolting in the streets? srsly).
moon_custafer: (Default)

[personal profile] moon_custafer 2017-03-10 01:18 pm (UTC)(link)
Slightly puzzled by the absence of the word "any," which should logically appear on that header before the word "picture." It looks like something was erased from that corner but I can't imagine why.
alexxkay: (Default)

[personal profile] alexxkay 2017-03-10 06:15 pm (UTC)(link)
Bad cropping? The image is notably off-center.

[identity profile] 2017-03-10 08:17 am (UTC)(link)
Could the Somerville do a special screening?


[identity profile] 2017-03-10 08:18 am (UTC)(link)
Could the Somerville do a special screening?

I don't know. I will ask if there's any possibility of getting a print.

[edit] If there isn't, while it wouldn't be anywhere near as good as film, I could always rent out the microcinema and bring my DVD and at least that way people I knew could watch it not on their computers.
Edited 2017-03-10 20:55 (UTC)

[identity profile] 2017-03-10 09:33 pm (UTC)(link)
That would be lovely, either way.


[identity profile] 2017-03-10 01:50 pm (UTC)(link)
Yes, oh, yes! I rewatched it on YouTube recently (I would happily buy it but can't find a copy) and those last lines made me absolutely shiver.

[identity profile] 2017-03-10 07:22 pm (UTC)(link)
(I would happily buy it but can't find a copy)

Olive Films can help with that (

[identity profile] 2017-03-10 07:39 pm (UTC)(link)
oooh! Bookmarking for when I can afford things again! Thank you!

[identity profile] 2017-03-10 07:54 pm (UTC)(link)
Thank you!

You're welcome! I had been lamenting its absence from DVD since I first saw it in 2008 and I am delighted. (I know it's been on and off YouTube, but it's not the same thing.)
Edited 2017-03-10 20:03 (UTC)

[identity profile] 2017-03-10 03:25 pm (UTC)(link)
Beautiful. Yes and yes and yes.

[identity profile] 2017-03-10 08:47 pm (UTC)(link)
Beautiful. Yes and yes and yes.

I hope he's still right. I think he is, but there's that dark road first, and this time we're on it, too.

[identity profile] 2017-03-10 11:50 pm (UTC)(link)
"Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things--trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play-world."

Good old Puddleglum. Time frames are always a problem. Leslie Howard didn't live to see the triumph, but people who saw the film did. We don't know how long the dark road is, but we'll keep being flames.

[identity profile] 2017-03-11 05:12 am (UTC)(link)
Good old Puddleglum. Time frames are always a problem. Leslie Howard didn't live to see the triumph, but people who saw the film did. We don't know how long the dark road is, but we'll keep being flames.

This is a good way of describing things.

What was behind my earlier comment was just the thought that, although I find the callbacks to WWII resistance both heartening and practical (hence reblogging Leslie Howard—always reblog Leslie Howard), we are not quite in analogous positions to most of them: our present administration is much more in the Volksempfänger line than Christmas messages or fireside chats. That makes it a different war. I want to win this one, too, but I'd rather do it without the firebombing or the brain drain. (Or nukes. I'm strongly in favor of no nukes.)

[identity profile] 2017-03-11 05:24 am (UTC)(link)
I heartily agree with your analysis and wishes.

[identity profile] 2017-03-10 04:22 pm (UTC)(link)
I must admit, this alternate title sort of amazed me, especially since I've been thinking of re-screening V for Vendetta since roughly last November.

[identity profile] 2017-03-10 08:28 pm (UTC)(link)
I must admit, this alternate title sort of amazed me, especially since I've been thinking of re-screening V for Vendetta since roughly last November.

I would love to know if any of Pimpernel Smith/Mister V got into V for Vendetta's DNA. It influenced Raoul Wallenberg, so weirder things have happened.

If by any freak chance you happen to be in the Boston area in April, the Somerville Theatre will be screening a 35 mm print of V for Vendetta on the 5th (

[identity profile] 2017-03-10 09:33 pm (UTC)(link)
Wikipedia says that Moore first floated the idea for what would become V for Vendetta at age 22, when he pitched a series set in the 1930s whose main character would be a "transsexual terrorist." It was rejected, but this interests me, because there really is an implication in both current versions that V could have originally been either or any sex, but it now very much neutral; that if he started out as a cis man, for example, it's just as likely that his origin involved him burning all sexual characteristics away in a Phoenix-like fire of reinvention.

More from the article:

Moore and Lloyd conceived the series as a dark adventure-strip influenced by British comic characters of the 1960s, as well as by Night Raven, which Lloyd had previously worked on with writer Steve Parkhouse. Editor Dez Skinn came up with the name "Vendetta" over lunch with his colleague Graham Marsh — but quickly rejected it as sounding too Italian (in fact the word "vendetta" is Italian in origin). Then V for Vendetta emerged, putting the emphasis on "V" rather than "Vendetta". David Lloyd developed the idea of dressing V as Guy Fawkes after previous designs followed the conventional superhero look.

During the preparation of the story, Moore made a list of what he wanted to bring into the plot, which he reproduced in "Behind the Painted Smile":

Orwell. Huxley. Thomas Disch. Judge Dredd. Harlan Ellison's "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman, Catman and The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World by the same author. Vincent Price's Dr. Phibes and Theatre of Blood. David Bowie. The Shadow. Night Raven. Batman. Fahrenheit 451. The writings of the New Worlds school of science fiction. Max Ernst's painting "Europe After the Rain". Thomas Pynchon. The atmosphere of British Second World War films. The Prisoner. Robin Hood. Dick Turpin...

The influence of such a wide number of references has been thoroughly proved in academic studies,above which dystopian elements stand out, especially the similarity with George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four in several stages of the plot. The political climate of Britain in the early 1980s also influenced the work, with Moore positing that Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government would "obviously lose the 1983 elections", and that an incoming Michael Foot-led Labour government, committed to complete nuclear disarmament, would allow the United Kingdom to escape relatively unscathed after a limited nuclear war. However, Moore felt that fascists would quickly subvert a post-holocaust Britain. Moore's scenario remains untested. Addressing historical developments when DC reissued the work, he noted:

Naïveté can also be detected in my supposition that it would take something as melodramatic as a near-miss nuclear conflict to nudge Britain towards fascism... The simple fact that much of the historical background of the story proceeds from a predicted Conservative defeat in the 1983 General Election should tell you how reliable we were in our roles as Cassandras.

[identity profile] 2017-03-10 07:02 pm (UTC)(link)
I really need to watch Pimpernel Smith again.

[identity profile] 2017-03-10 08:54 pm (UTC)(link)
I really need to watch Pimpernel Smith again.

Well, you now have the option on DVD! I still think Criterion should have done a box set of Howard's wartime films, but at least I don't have to point people toward staticky library VHS anymore.