TV Cream

Films: M is for...

Matter of Life and Death, A

A number of films in this chart are wartime propaganda jobs, knocked up in times of crisis for a quick sentimental fix, but made by people seemingly unable to just crack off a forgettable, cornball salute-jerker, and who painstakingly crafted a timeless classic instead. We’re certainly not going to suggest that What We Need’s Another War, but you have to wonder whether any filmmakers these days would summon the creative energy to go one better than the patriotic fluff they were ordered to make. Grandmasters of lasting stiff-lippery are, of course, The Archers, and the many delights of this film speak for themselves – the charming Old Englishry of the opening radio exchange, the ethereal glimpses of a bureaucratic Heaven (there’s something about black-and-white matte painting that beats its colour equivalent hollow), the Technicolour/black-and-white switch (knowingly tricksy, but handled with a sure touch, and not over-milked) – the list goes on. Of course, the England, and indeed the world depicted herein are as long-vanished as the war itself, but you don’t have to be a High Tory to fall in love with this smartly woozy call to arms these days – an eye and a heart are all that’s necessary. Ignore the dated politicking of the celestial courtroom scenes, there’s so much more than bluff national defiance on show here.

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