Message from Canterbury

Pastoral landscape with the odd barrage balloon, air raid, sermon. England by the grace of God.

Augustine and Thomas. A Churchillian intonation, “whatever the enemies of God and Christ destroy, we shall rebuild again,” the Rooseveltian “requisites of a natural order, of a Christian social order.”

Cf. Powell & Pressburger’s A Canterbury Tale.

Purcell, Tallis, Gibbons.

“A succession of images, one following the other” (Hitchcock), the odd Resnais prise de vue...



Murder in the Cathedral

“The hammer and the anvil.” The Christian paradox is to be dead in the Law and live in the Spirit, the hammer must strike the anvil for the wheel to turn in Eliot’s phrase and this to become evident.

Between Shaw’s Saint Joan (dir. Otto Preminger) and Osborne’s Luther (dir. Guy Green) and Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons (dir. Fred Zinnemann) and its curious corollary Maxwell Anderson’s Anne of the Thousand Days (dir. Charles Jarrott), screenplay by the author.

Edward Albee’s Tiny Alice is something of a gloss, cp. Guilty of Treason (dir. Felix E. Feist) and The Prisoner (dir. Peter Glenville).

“Here is no continuing city, here is no abiding stay... you come with applause, you come with rejoicing, but you come bringing death into Canterbury: a doom on the house, a doom on yourself, a doom on the world.”

Christ’s painted toenails (Scarlet Street, dir. Fritz Lang). A certain comparison can usefully be made to Cacoyannis on antiquity, Bergman has a certain game of chess (The Seventh Seal), a Virgin Spring, a Winter Light, and The Touch. A decided influence on Anthony Harvey’s The Lion in Winter, from James Goldman’s play. Jean Anouilh’s Becket (dir. Peter Glenville) takes up the Norman-Saxon theme.

“... living and partly living. We have seen births, deaths and marriages. We have had various scandals. We have been afflicted with taxes. We have had laughter and gossip. Several girls have disappeared unaccountably, and some not able to” (perhaps the cue for Russell’s The Devils).

A certain Shakespeherian nuance, “the strain on the brain of the small folk...” The easy life, the temporal power, its counterpoison, the afterlife, temptations. Julius Caesar...

“There is a cathedral that descends and a lake that rises,” Hoellering pans his camera on the sight.

“Do you like roast pork?”

“Business before dinner.”

“We’ll roast your pork first and dine upon it after.” The great chorus, “I have smelt them, the death-bringers,” its exactitude of vision.

“Nothing is possible but the shamed swoon of those consenting to the last humiliation.” Rossellini’s Augustine of Hippo and so forth, the Archbishop of Canterbury blesses the Chorus and the audience.

Analysis by the Knights, “no-one regrets the necessity for violence more than we do.”

“We,” say the Chorus, “the scrubbers and sweepers of Canterbury...”

Prizes in Venice for art direction and costumes. A celebrated well-spoken Anglican priest as Becket (an excellent actor alive to the meaning of the drama at every moment), Knights from the Old Vic, Niall MacGinnis, Alexander Gauge the king (subsequently Tetzel in Pichel’s Martin Luther), the Fourth Tempter’s voice T.S. Eliot. Fine cinematography, fine score, Sir Adrian Boult conducting the London Philharmonic.

Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, “a lot of talking for a matter of more than two hours. Variety, “very ponderous... unfolds too statically in the picture form... welter of wordage.” TV Guide, “difficult to sit through.” Hal Erickson (All Movie Guide), “no better or worse than a junior-college pageant.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “scarcely a rewarding cinematic experience,” citing Gavin Lambert, “a curious ordeal”.