Written, Produced and Directed by Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, starring Dame Wendy Hiller, Norman Shelly and Roger Livesey.
Joan Webster (Hiller) is a middle-class London woman looking to elevate here status by marrying Sir Robert Bellinger (Shelly). She knows that she does not love him but she also knows that she is tired of doing without. She is to meet Sir Bellinger on his private island off the coast of Scotland for their wedding. All is going to plan until a storm sweeps in and forces her ferryboat onto another island. There she must wait out the storm with a motley crew of country folk and a naval officer (Livesey) returning from World War 2.
Powell & Pressburger spent the years leading up to and during WW2 making espionage thrillers (CONTRABAND, THE 49TH PARALLEL) to remind England what they were fighting against. In the years following the war they made several films to remind England what they had been fighting for. With I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING they focused on the simple pleasures that we miss if we’re not paying attention. One of the great simple pleasures of this film is its unique black-n-white photography. I saw it at The Aero Theater a while back. I hope DVD can translate how it looked on screen. The images sparkle and shine as though conjured from mercury. ….Yeah yeah I know, sounds flaky, but I promise you have never seen black-n-white look so alive.
It’ll finish Tuesday.
AFTER THOUGHT from 5.25.11
Two of the more perpetuated stereotypes of movie fans break down along gender lines: women don’t like horror movies, and men don’t like romantic comedies. I disagree with both notions. I’ll address the former some time in the coming months, but for now, let’s focus on the latter. I believe firmly that men and women, and movie fans of any gender preference, like a good romantic comedy. It’s the lackluster ones we can do without. Give us situations that we can relate to, or failing those then situations that we can believe in, or failing those then situations that reward our suspension of disbelief. Love requires people to work hard and work smart. Give us characters that we see willing to do that work, or who are willing to try and fail, before learning and succeeding. Give the audience characters who have earned our affection and we will want to see them rewarded with someone else’s affection. The majority of romantic comedy scripts fall short in at least one of these areas. A likable cast and quick pacing can make up for only a limited amount of unimaginative story and uninspiring characterization.
I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING begins realistically enough but becomes more unbelievable as the story progresses. The masterstroke of Powell & Pressburger’s script is the proportions by which a tone of charming mysticism builds as events became more unlikely. As Joan Webster becomes flummoxed by the uncontrollability of the weather, the islanders with whom she keeps company are certain that she is quite in the control of something else, call it fate or curse or God or Mother Nature. Joan does not open a door and step into a Technicolor dream like Dorothy entering Oz. Her journey is cautious with little nudges and twists of fate challenging her perspective and priorities. The changes Joan undergoes are anything but easy; if she is going to find happiness she will not do so by wishing, and then being cheerfully perky until nice things happen because they are dictated by the running time. When a romance believes this deeply in the transformative nature of love, and a comedy offers characters that we laugh with rather than at, then you have the makings of a milestone among romantic comedies.