The brief notes on the DVD sleeve include the word, 'charming' twice and whilst this is appropriate the film is much more. Indeed the 'charming' storyline can be ignored and the beautifully shot film enjoyed as a documentary, albeit with more than a little of the propaganda feel to it. Cinematography is by Douglas Slocombe and most effective with great use made of the lyrical landscapes and cloud peppered skies. Curious time for film-making, during the War and this must have been intended as a morale boost as much as anything. Amazing shots of the canals, including vivid footage that I have never seen before. I'm astonished that this historic document has been so ignored for so long and for anyone interested in a glimpse at what life on the canals was like in the mid 40s, this is invaluable.
Reviewed by bkoganbing6 / 10
An interesting way of life
Airplanes and motorcars and railways have left the canals of Great Britain far behind as our canals like the Erie Canal in my region of America. Today they exist as artificially made rivers hopefully with a fish in them.
But the canals had a revival of sorts as a method of transporting war material during World War II which lasted two years longer for them than it did for us. Painted Boats is an interesting mixture of documentary about the canals with a boy/girl story of two young people who are the latest generation of families who work the barges and locks of Britain's canal system. Jenny Laird and Robert Griffiths are the two young people who meet and plan to marry but Mr. Hitler disrupts all those plans.
These people's whole lives are wrapped up in the canal system from cradle to grave. When you either run a boat or the locks there's little need to know anything else. A really telling scene in this film is when Laird and her mother May Hallatt sign a new contract with a company and sign with "Xs". No need for literacy on a barge.
Painted boats is an interesting story of a time gone by in the United Kingdom.
Reviewed by Spondonman8 / 10
There's been a lot of water under the bridge since this little beauty was made
Ealing were just at the beginning their golden period, after this the studio went on during the next year to make Dead Of Night which was one of their towering achievements. This little film however is not in that class even if still spellbinding for beaming back through Time to us a lost England. It's not completely lost because many people still ply boats along canals, only mainly as a pastime though.
It's a short semi-romantic semi-documentary showing brief episodes in the busy lives of a couple of families on the water, working on the Grand Union Canal between the Midlands and London. The rustic homeliness of it all was beautifully captured by the camera of Douglas Slocombe, I lost count of all the languid and lovely images of riverbanks, quaint buildings with or without thatch, gentle or frothing water and blue skies. And all in a clean and glorious black and white nitrate print. Thick accents through dubbed sound can be hard to follow at times as well as occasionally wondering what's going on as it's all taken so leisurely, but it's not a problem. A splendid lulling narration by James McKechnie takes over at times which is redolent of Eric Portman in Canterbury Tale – Can No One Speak Like That Nowadays? Jenny Laird, who a few years before had played Ethel to Just William was the main character in here, emotional Mary. Harry Fowler then nineteen years old played his usual lovable youth role, while Megs Jenkins seemed ready as usual to wash some glasses.
It leaves loose ends in the rush to finish but the main point was achieved in the one hour: the loving views of some wonderful English countryside. Engrossing inconsequential stuff, give it a punt.