Movies for Grown-Ups: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
December 8, 2011 - 12:30 am
Based on its awkward title, I’d always assumed Colonel Blip was a “zany”(if dark and probably tedious) “anti-war” comedy (a la The Bed Sitting Room) about the famous British comic strip character. Created by a left-wing cartoonist in the 1930s, the walrus-like blowhard “Blimp” spouted nonsensical patriotic cliches, and represented everything right-thinking young Englishmen hated about their “stiff upper lip” Establishment parents.
So to get a sense of what an amazing accomplishment …Colonel Blimp is, imagine Martin Scorsese taking Homer and Marge Simpson and, without a single ironic wink, fashioning a cinematic masterpiece to rival Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage.
Colonel Blimp is a paragon of parodox. It isn’t an anti-war satire, but it isn’t pro-war, either. (And either way, there isn’t a single battle scene.) The titular hero is almost overshadowed by his best friend, who starts out as his greatest enemy. The movie is a bittersweet romance about a lifelong unrequited love (and it doesn’t have a “love scene,” either).
When we meet “Colonel Blimp” – the character’s name is actually Clive Candy — he’s a fat, balding old fellow, dozing in the officer’s steam room. World War II has only just begun, and a cocky young officer pulls a prank on the old man under the guise of practicing “maneuvers.”
Candy blusters in response:
“You laugh at my big belly, but you don’t know how I got it. You laugh at my mustache, but you don’t know why I grew it. How do you know what sort of fella I was when I was as young as you are, forty years ago?”
With that, we’re off on a sweeping, epic journey back to Edwardian England to meet the then “handsome and tall” Clive Candy. He soon encounters the two most important people in his life: his arch-rival and Prussian officer counterpart turned best friend, Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff, and beautiful nurse Edith Hunter.