****/**** Image A+ Sound A- Extras A
starring Anton Walbrook, Deborah Kerr, Roger Livesey, Roland Culver
written and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
by Walter Chaw The prototype in many ways for Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York, Powell and Pressburger's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, although lighthearted and easily mistaken for a romp, is an existential horror film that, for all the things it's otherwise about, is most vitally about what it's like to grow old. There's a moment early on--when our hero, Clive Candy (Roger Livesey), realizes he's let the love of his life marry his best friend--that clarifies exactly what the picture has on its mind. For the rest of the film, as the kingdom of his memories grows to a size that dwarfs modernity rushing past, Candy finds shades of the lost Edith (Deborah Kerr), his personal Lenore, resurfacing in the faces of young women the world over. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp understands that as one grows old, an entire village sprouts in the mind, full of beloved businesses and places that have long since disappeared, peopled by old flames and loved ones, dead or just vanished but in any case never again to resume the form in which memory has frozen them. Though memorable for its technical brilliance, its Technicolor vibrancy, and its courageously sprung narrative structure, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp's ability to pinion the sadness, the loneliness, that experience carries with it is what makes the movie what it is. Life as a process of emotional attrition: Last man standing is cold comfort, indeed.