The Criterion Collection Movie •••½Picture/Sound •••½Extras •••
This project began as a 1944 British government effort to promote relations with America. In the hands of filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, it became an ethereal, lyrical masterwork seeped in romance and mystery, celebrating land, love, and camaraderie. Imagery on this two-disc set is startling, filled with crystal-clear blacks and whites, dreamy grays, and silvery halftones. Only slight source-element decomposition in Chapter 15 taints the near-pristine beauty. Mono sound is dynamic and sibilance-free. Luxurious extras include an excellent commentary by Powell scholar Ian Christie, recent interviews with stars Sheila Sim and John Sweet, and the stunning 1942 Humphrey Jennings documentary Listen to Britain (a noted Canterbury Tale inspiration). You also get the alternate beginning and ending, tacked onto the film for its American release, which must have destroyed the movie's magical spell. [NR] English, Dolby Digital mono; full frame (1.33:1); two dual-layer discs.