Sunday, 18 September 2016

Passport to Pimlico

Year of Release:  1949
Director:  Henry Cornelius
Screenplay:  T. E. B. Clarke
Starring:  Stanley Holloway, Margaret Rutherford, Barbara Murray
Running Time:  84 minutes
Genre:  comedy

This is a fairly early example of the so-called "Ealing Comedies", a series of films from Britain's Ealing Studios, which were notable for their gentle whimsy.  In Passport to Pimlico, an unexploded World War II bomb is accidentally detonated revealing an underground chamber full of treasure, and  a Royal charter stating that Pimlico, a small borough of central London, is legally part of the French Duchy of Burgundy.  The residents of Pimlico immediately decide to embrace their newfound status as Burgundians, and declare independence form the rest of Britain.  However while it is initially a lot of fun (they tear up their ration books and identity cards, enjoy unlimited opening hours at the local pub, and shopping on a Sunday), the necessity of supplies, not to mention law and order, prove to be serious problems.

This is a quintessentially cosy comedy.  There is some extremely gentle satire on postwar British life, but mostly it's the cinematic equivalent of a coffee and a biscuit on a wet Sunday afternoon.  While there are some solid laughs in the film, mostly it's very gentle whimsy.  It's entertaining enough to keep a smile throughout, but mostly that's about it.  It's the kind of film you can switch on and know that there's nothing to worry about in it, nothing likely to offend, and you'll have a couple of laughs.  There are good performances, and there are enough witty lines and plot developments to keep what is basically a one-gag going.  There could be more bite to the satire and some of the darker elements to the situation never get explored, although that's not really so much a criticism, sometimes it's great to have something completely light and funny, with nothing to worry about, particularly these days.  It is also a look at a bygone world, with bombed-out buildings, and rationing and so on.

           Barbara Murray and Stanley Holloway in Passport to Pimlico

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