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Alberto De Martino
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There's been a lot of water under the bridge since this little beauty was made
Ealing were just at the beginning their golden period, after this the studio went on during the next year to make Dead Of Night which was one of their towering achievements. This little film however is not in that class even if still spellbinding for beaming back through Time to us a lost England. It's not completely lost because many people still ply boats along canals, only mainly as a pastime though.
It's a short semi-romantic semi-documentary showing brief episodes in the busy lives of a couple of families on the water, working on the Grand Union Canal between the Midlands and London. The rustic homeliness of it all was beautifully captured by the camera of Douglas Slocombe, I lost count of all the languid and lovely images of riverbanks, quaint buildings with or without thatch, gentle or frothing water and blue skies. And all in a clean and glorious black and white nitrate print. Thick accents through dubbed sound can be hard to follow at times as well as occasionally wondering what's going on as it's all taken so leisurely, but it's not a problem. A splendid lulling narration by James McKechnie takes over at times which is redolent of Eric Portman in Canterbury Tale Can No One Speak Like That Nowadays? Jenny Laird, who a few years before had played Ethel to Just William was the main character in here, emotional Mary. Harry Fowler then nineteen years old played his usual lovable youth role, while Megs Jenkins seemed ready as usual to wash some glasses.
It leaves loose ends in the rush to finish but the main point was achieved in the one hour: the loving views of some wonderful English countryside. Engrossing inconsequential stuff, give it a punt.
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