Saturday, January 14, 2012

I Know Where I’m Going! (1945)

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The Archers, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, collaborated on eighteen films over a thirty year period (1939-72).  While their first true “Archer” production (where they share writing, directing and producing credit) didn’t come until 1943 with The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, they had previously worked on four films together.  Usually, it was Powell who did the bulk of the directing and Pressburger who came up with the story ideas and handled most of the production chores (especially when it came to editing and music incorporation). Some of their endeavors are quite memorable, like Black Narcissus (1947) and The Red Shoes (1948), while others are easily forgotten, such as The Battle of the River Plate (1956) and Ill Met By Moonlight (1957).  Somewhere in-between their masterpieces and their flops is located I Know Where I’m Going! (1945), which stars Wendy Hiller as a young woman who’d rather marry for money than love.

Manchesterian Joan Webster (Hiller) is supposed to marry wealthy industrialist Sir Robert Bellinger (Norman Shelley’s voice—he’s never seen) on the Isle of Kiloran, but the weather (or fate) in the Scottish Hebrides has other plans.  For wendysome reason I’ve never really liked Hiller. I don’t know exactly why, but I think it’s her voice—it just rubs me the wrong way. Still, she was a decent actress who was nominated for three Oscars (she won one for Separate Tables [1958]) and she worked in the industry for nearly sixty years.  In I Know Where I’m Going! she does a nice job of portraying her character’s steely determination to not be sabotaged by love (and an island full of eccentric Scots).  However, I like her much more in the beginning of the film when she is calling her bank managing father “Darling” (George Carney) than I do when she is risking poor Kenny’s (Murdo Morrison) life to get across to Kiloran.

Roger Livesey (an Archer veteran) gives his usual steady performance as Torquil MacNeil (what a name!). A kilt-wearing naval officer, Torquil is the broke Laird of Kiloran (FYI a laird is one step below a baron) and the owner of the Isle of Kiloran.  He sees in Joan a woman he would like to tame, but unlike Petruchio, he attempts to do it with kindness and pamela brownpatience. Too bad his childhood friend Catriona (Pamela Brown) is married, because she is much prettier and, more importantly, way more interesting than Joan.  It just grates on my nerves when the supporting actress is more enjoyable than the lead actress (see Kristen Scott Thomas and Andie MacDowell in Four Weddings and a Funeral [1994]).  In addition to Livesey and Brown’s nice acting turns, Captain C.W.R. Knight is a hoot as Colonel Barnstaple, a falconer with a delightful sense of style.

What I think sets this movie apart from a number of others during this period is it’s cinematography. This was most probably cinematographer Erwin Hillier’s best work over his thirty year career.  It is said the he didn’t use a light meter at all, which must have made his task more difficult than usual, especially when you consider the weather conditions.  There i-know-where-im-going-film-review1are many long distance shots that capture the overall majesty of the Scottish shoreline.  As someone who has spent time in the Scottish towns of Carnoustie and Killin it was a reminder of just how beautiful the land of Scots can be.  Hillier also used a hand-held camera to capture some of the close-up shots—most notably the ones of the boat struggling against the Corryvreckan whirlpool.  Interestingly enough, what most people don’t know is that Livesey never once set foot in Scotland for any of the location shots because he was doing a play in London at the time they were shot. 

Overall, I Know Where I’m Going! is a somewhat enjoyable light romantic comedy.  Other than some very fine photography, there is not much else that stands out.  Still, it was nice to learn a little bit about Scottish customs, and the bagpipes weren’t played so much that I  wanted to hit mute too often, either.

19 comments:

  1. I love this movie. Have been meaning to blog on it for ages. It strikes me as a kind of fairy tale break from the war, and like most classic fairy tales, contains a grim side to it with unpleasant consequences. As you say, some stunning photography.

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    1. Jacqueline, it does seem to have a fairy tale feel to it. I think the legend about the cursed castle gives it this.

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  2. Kim, I'm surprised you didn't like I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING better; it's one of my favorite Powell-Pressberger films. I think Wendy Hiller is marvelous and she & Roger Livesey make a very engaging pair. Even though the outcome is inevitable early on, it was delightful to watch Joan's journey to arrive at it. As with other Powell-Pressberger films, the location--the village, its residents, even its climate--direct influence over the lives of the film's protagonists. During the 1940s, P&P certainly provided their share of spotlight roles for strong actresses with this film, THE RED SHOES, and their superb collaborations with Deborah Kerr.

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    1. Well, Rick, I didn't hate it. Like I said, I think my less than enthusiastic reaction is mostly due to my dislike of Hiller.

      I love a lot of P&P's films, but this just doesn't do it for me. Give me The Red Shoes and I'm in heaven.

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  3. Kim, I've only seen I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING once, way back when I was a kid watching foreign films on our local PBS station! I seem to remember liking the supporting characters better than Wendy Hiller's character as well, but now that I'm an adult, I wouldn't mind giving it another try through adult eyes. :-) In any case, I enjoyed your review, especially behind-the-scenes tidbits like the issues with the cinematography!

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    1. Dorian, I watched this film again last week (hence the review). I think I appreciated it a tad more this time, so I do recommend watching it again.

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  4. I hope you dont't mind if I stop in just to say "hi" and that I have been reading all this months great articles. Most of them are "all new to me". One of the reasons I love the Cafe so much, is that it introduce me to movies I would have never known about.. Thanx..

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    1. Dawn, I don't presume to speak for Rick, but I'm sure he's glad you're enjoying his pet project month.

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  5. I enjoyed the film on my only viewing but agree with you it's not among their best work. Livesey is such a likable actor. I've only seen him in P&P films. Finlay Currie has a small role too, an actor I love from Great Expectations (Magwitch).

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    1. Readerman, I liked Finlay Currie in Great Expectations, too. And, like you, I don't think this is P&P's best work.

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  6. I adore this film. It's been on my DVR forever, possibly the longest running film I've saved there. And, for me, Wendy Hiller is a revelation as the smug, determined twit her character begins as (and is through most of the film). In addition, I like her Eliza Doolittle in "Pygmalion" far more than than that of anyone who followed in "My Fair Lady." Also loved her in "Murder on the Orient Express" and "Separate Tables" (Oscar). This is a very different film, I suppose, but I'm one who loves everything about it. And, considering their wide-ranging filmography, it's simply more proof of the magnificence of the production company known as The Archers.

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    1. Eve--it has a longer presence on your DVR than a Hitch film? I'm surprised. I prefer Audrey's Eliza--sorry. Hiller was a good actress, especially as she got older. Like I said, there I just something about her that annoys me. Maybe she reminds me of a mean teacher I had once--who knows.

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    2. I own a lot of Hitchcocks but have yet to buy "I Know Where I'm Going," so it remains saved. But one of these days it will be mine. Would love to one day sit down and watch everything Powell & Pressburger. TCM had a night of it on Thurs. with "Col. Blimp," "Life & Death" "Black Narcissus" and "The Red Shoes."

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  7. Kim, I found "I Know Where I'm Going" to be charming. Joan thinks she knows where she's going but circumstances force her to reevalutate her choice. I liked Roger Livesey, who also was compelling in "A Matter of Life and Death." I am glad that you profiled a work that is not well known. It is also nice to see your support for the strong performance of Pamela Brown.

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    1. Toto, I like a Matter of Life and Death a lot more than I Know Where I'm Going. Roger Livesey was supposed to be a much better stage actor than screen actor, but I like just about all the films he did.

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  8. Absolutely the greatest punchline of all time!

    It was Elwy Yost and TVO's "Saturday Night at the Movies" that introduced me to "I Know Where I'm Going!". It was an experience worth repeating often.

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    1. Caftan Woman, I am unfamiliar with TVO.

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  9. I love "I Know Where I'm Going" and along with The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, it is my favorite of all the films Powell/Pressburger made. I feel it is much more than a somewhat-light-romantic-comedy. For those of us who grew up with the film, it transports us to Kiloran...and all the magic that surrounds that little island. The film sets a "mood", which is probably one of the most important things a film can do to a person. Very much like "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir ". But I must say IKWIG has a little more depth than that film because it tells us a message....that no matter how confident and self-assured one may be of what they want/deserve in life, it only takes one small happening to turn our world around.

    As for Wendy Hiller....she'll grow on you, just you wait and see.

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    1. Birdie, I like the Ghost and Mrs. Muir more than this film. As for Hiller growing on me, I've seen all of her well-known performances and she hasn't grown on me, yet. Sorry! However, I must say I find her more agreeable in Major Barbara, so I suppose that is something.

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