Apologies to a couple of people who’ve suggested clips for our ongoing Cinema Euphoria project but haven’t had them show up yet, but — have you noticed? — we have a bit of a theme going on this week.
Yes, it has turned into a week of Scottish Euphoria (two words that seldom go together). Starting with THE WICKER MAN and carrying on through GREGORY’S GIRL and A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH — not itself a Scottish film in any way, but an excuse for some anecdotes from assistant director Lawrie Knight, who was born and died here in Edinburgh. I’m not sure how I can shoehorn THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS into this theme, but with enough ingenuity anything should be possible.
So today we continue in a similar vein with a prize extract from I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING!, another film from the Powell-Pressburger team.
IKWIG, as we shall henceforth be calling it, takes place largely on a fictional version of the island of Mull, and still attracts tourists to that part of the world. Perhaps not quite as many as LOCAL HERO, but a few. (Curiously, both movies feature iconic public telephone boxes.) Here we find Wendy Hiller on her way to marry Consolidated Chemical Industries, before fate intervenes, proving that while we may THINK we know where we’re going, the forces of the universe are always capable of radically altering our plans.
The folk song that gives IKWIG its title, and which plays in this scene, may be strangely familiar even to non-aficionados of traditional song, especially if they are fans of Nicholas Ray. Ray’s debut feature, THEY LIVE BY NIGHT, uses the same theme in its opening titles, testament to the folk-music advice of Ray’s friend Woody Guthrie, who assisted, uncredited, with the selection of music.
Oh yes! The clip was suggested by filmmaker and writer Mary Gordon, who wrote:
I also love the bonkers dream scene from I know where i’m going when the train seems to travel amongst tartan-covered breasts – or am i just making that up? And just generally in that film having a female character who is frankly unlikeable and not scared to be unlikeable…
We then debated whether the tartan breasts were in fact breasts or just Lollobrigidian hills, and I put it to all of you that one of them has a tunnel in it, ergo it’s a HILL.
Agree about the heroine, she’s tough and cold and very very stubborn BUT there’s still something positive there. I think Powell and Pressburger were very skilled and imaginative about finding sympathy for even quite monstrous characters: I adore Wendy in this film, as I adore Lermontov and Sister Ruth and Mark Lewis in Powell’s PEEPING TOM. Maybe Wendy Hiller is appealing here because she breaks all the rules about how women are supposed to behave in romantic movies, and that makes her refreshing company. Screenwriters take note: movie characters are different from real people in that what they mainly should be is surprising and stimulating. I don’t generally choose real-life friends for their ability to give me conniptions, but I certainly don’t want to spend my movie-viewing time with a lot of placid, lovely people. I need brazen nutters!
IKWIG was our friend Lawrie’s favourite Powell and Pressburger film, even though he didn’t work on it. I think he liked its relative modesty, compared to the overheated, un-British intensity of BLACK NARCISSUS and THE RED SHOES. I think, also, that he managed to convince himself that those classics he worked on were really not so very great — and he maintained this illusion until any time he caught a glimpse of one, and then he would be blown away all over again by how undeniably staggeringly gorgeous they are.