The Canterbury Tales

A brief confession.

This morning…
I drank coffee instead of tea.

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Shocking, I know.
It was made all the more glorious by a generous swirl of french vanilla. Made much less glorious by the quick gastrointestinal ramifications due to the reintroduction of coffee.

PG Tips forgive me. Smite me no more.

To continue our theme of dramatic word play I decided on…

The Canterbury Tales (1972)
“I racconti di Canterbury” (original title)
Starring Hugh Griffith, Laura Betti…
Directed by Pier Paola Pasolini
How I saw it: Streamed on Netflix
First time seeing it, a little afraid this is the film my Chaucer prof mentioned in undergrad

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**If you’ve never read Canterbury Tales, please know is it sassy, saucy, and just a bit raunchy**

Show credits slowly change over background noise. Is this a stage production? Oh oh…music. Umm….music? Quick, everyone get to their places so we can start the film. I’m not sure if the instrument I’m hearing is a clarinet or a bagipe. Which is, unfortunate. Still staring at black and white credits.

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Eats ramen noodles. Don’t judge me.

Fades to black and….That’s a drunk monk singing next to wine barrels. Ah, Chaucer. Ok, we’re in a city center, guessing we’ll be picking up the pilgrims soon. Camera flips past a few faces and then suddenly, Hercules appears in a stellar blonde wig. I mean, wow.  In a fight scene that looks to be choreographed by Chuck Norris himself, Hercules let’s his pants slip slightly to reveal purple underwear, his opponent admits defeat, and Hercules is given a goat.

Looking through the entry gate a purple clad gentleman with a wide brimmed hat (Chaucer) is bantering with a mysteriously over-tatted older gentleman.
Older gentleman: “Between a jest and a joke, many a truth can be told.”
Snap. The character of Chaucer is portrayed by the director himself.

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At six minutes in, let me say two things. The costuming… just, who is this person and can I please watch all of their films? Secondly,that sketchy man currently throwing shade at who I assume is the Wife of Bath, has to be Russian mafia. And that confuses me greatly. Chaucer, What have you done?

We’re in a pub-like Viking hut and the Host begins to speak. Who, if he is never given a name, will be called Mr. Filch (and he’d like his cat back, Harry.) Tell us a story Chaucer…. do it.The extras are restless, bemused, and they keep smiling awkwardly at the camera. Make them stop. Too much eye contact.

I took a class on Chaucer in undergrad. My professor was rather special. She had a hat she wore to class with replications of pilgrimage pins on them. So three hours a week, I stared at this hat covered in tiny shiny vaginas and phallic images. She also mentioned there was only one version of Canterbury Tales that was made into film. She mentioned is was rated-X. Which is not the same as NR, right?

As a bare butt fills the screen and a rich old man “moans” then “giggles”. Oh, dear. Ladies, when there is a man of means around looking for a wife, please don’t flash your bum. You could end up married. Lesson learned.

Bumflasher is chowing down on some wedding turkey because, we all know she’s hoping he’ll have a heart attack before sunrise. Then, suddenly, what should she spy? But oh my oh my a waif-ish young man sitting spread-eagle across the room clad as a jester. Hold me back. The sexual tension is palatable er palpable.
They are NOT going to consummate this marriage in the middle of their wedding guests.
Creeper: “Alas, I must trespass against you, my spouse, and make you suffer, for a moment of pleasure.” WTF. After a long awkward silence where we find ourselves outside the house/castle/rock-thing with the miserable looking waif, Creeper shouts: “I did it. I did it.” and laughs.

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Cut to a field filled with carefully coiffed trees and a young man with a leafy crown plays a bamboo flute.

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And then, Adam and Eve or two lost young Woodstock lovers peak through the trees as their skyclad forms meander gracefully across the screen.

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The garden belongs to our newlyweds. Creeper (proper name January) sports an impressive cape/coat that I believe was stitched from the fallen hide of Smaug. Copulates on the dragon hide to the alarming grins of flutist and naked Biblical hippies. Really people… some decorum please.

I’ve slept since I read the tales. So I’m currently unsure if we’re on the pilgrimage already, or if all this exciting action took place beforehand. Oh look Creeper has woken up blind. Dragons take their revenge in their own time.

The King of Hades speaks. What? I don’t remember this. Mr. Filch, is that you talking? Did you wander into the Restricted Section? Dumbledore will be cross with you. No way! Hippie Adam is the King of Hades? Shut. up.

That was some painful voice-over work (even though they probably are speaking in Italian). I think they might’ve stolen these two from somewhere and forced them to lip-sync the parts. If you pay very close attention it looks like she says “Help me.” Also, she may be high.

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Sneaky Hippie restores Creeper’s sight just as his wife climbs up the mulberry tree to kiss the waif. May (Bumflasher) is inexplicably overjoyed that his sight has returned. May, girl, I need to introduce you to Lagertha. She’s can teach you the ways of the Northmen, and you could be free from this old man, and be Earl of your people. Plus….Ragnar Lothbrook. I’m just saying. You’d never look at your waif again.

I think that story ended. We have a new character, male, hanging off the side of the building just his head showing in the opening of the window. Someone has been exercising. Or they have a sneaky foothold somewhere on that set.

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He enters the room, peaks through a drape and… shagging peeps. This must be Chaucer’s voyeur bit. I think I skimmed over that. Scandalized gasp… As the Sir on top reaches over for an apple, Is that you Hercules? Your hair I spy? But where is your goat? Calm down top, no one asked to see those kinds of pelvic thrusts.

Excuse me… my tea is getting cold.

There hasn’t been any sound for three minutes. Seriously, is everyone in this place either shagging or peeking in on those that are? I mean, I know Canterbury Tales was a long book, but even if I squint this doesn’t seem familiar to me. Maybe I suppressed the memories. What’s that Abbott and Costello bit? Who’s on First. This part of the film is like that, but the bases are bums. Nuns walking… if only they knew what was happening behind closed doors.

I’m watching this with the subtitles on to make quotes easier, though there’s really not much dialogue, and if some of those titles hadn’t given names as people spoke, I would have no idea who an of these folks are supposed to be.

Gent in the second room pays off the church and receives a pardon, Sir in the first room is poor and so is told he will burn on the griddle. (Also not Hercules as previously thought) Nice little working in of the problems regarding the practices and theology of the church in this time. Check.

There is a crowd in the courtyard, present I assume, to watch the execution of Sir because he is guilty of being poor. The peeking guy is walking through the silent masses repeatedly yelling “Griddle cakes!” peddling his pre-Americana version of baseball’s hotdogs, beer, and Cracker Jacks. (Cracker Jacks?…Tracker Jackers?… Whichever) He’s said it at least twenty times. I’ve begun to go mad. Ok, Sir was definitely dosed with Tracker Jacker venom before they brought him outside. That guy is seriously scrappy. Do we have to watch him die? Oh my god, they’re burning him alive. I am so disturbed. The peddler is overjoyed and keeps maneuvering closer to get a better look. Morbid weirdo. Stop smiling like that!

Then there’s a stilted interchange between two rent collectors (one of which is our morbid weirdo). One who invites the other to his place (because we didn’t already have enough homo-erotic tension).

I was about to tune out for a second an then weirdo said “I am the devil. My dwelling is in hell. And hereabout I ride to earn my living just as you.You cheat without scruple just as I do.” So, I’m thinking that invitation is retracted. But this movie has surprised me before. Why is the Devil peddling griddle cakes anyway?

Windmills! Don Quixote must be near. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an actual windmill in person. That must be rectified.I think the Devil is going to make this old woman tilt her own windmill. Don’t do it. If I was reading, this is the point I would skim and start over with a new chapter. Instead I’m going to go put away dishes…

New story. A young Italian Charlie Chaplain exits a barn with a fine hat and cane whilst an angry man yells at him calling him a bastard.

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There’s no dialogue for a a little while. It all gets very vaudeville, then Chaplin returns home. He father yells at him and his mother brings up an entire turkey for him to eat in bed. Good boy.

Chaplin’s gotten a job shining eggs. I just… I have no words. And he’s fired for winking at a man with long ginger hair. So he went home with the long-haired ginger man and it would seem that he had a menage a trois with ginger and ginger’s wife. Now he’s dreaming of a naked dance party. The musicans and none of the ladies are wearing a stitch of clothing aside from their little white caps. Chaplin is still fully clothed. He sings gleefully as he’s put in the stocks. And thus his story ended.

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Finally a story I remember. A youth oh so in love with Allison. Beware the beard lusty youth. Oh my….what a large….presence the youth has hidden in his orange britches. Allison is such a cougar.

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Full-frontal male nudity. That’s equality for you, and shaved as well. I feel that’s probably a historical inaccuracy. I also feel like this story is the one that most people know, if they’ve read any of Chaucer. If not, I can’t even tell you what to expect besides lots of flesh, farting, naughty humor, a hot poker, and an unfortunately placed kiss.

This movie isn’t for those who tire of a constant onslaught of pale flesh flashing before their eyes. And it is constant.

Gotta love the Wife of Bath: “But as all my husbands say. I’ve got the best little venus down there in the city of Bath.” Step aside Allison.

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And then there was The Miller’s Tale and an excellent example of the issue of “consent”… More than a little rapey. But told with such humor you almost miss it. *facepalm*

Ok, now I have no effing clue what is going on. Are we in a brothel? I don’t think I can handle one more dangling, bobbing, bulbous appendage. 13 minutes left.

Nope. For the love of…. I don’t even know. For some reason we descended into hell. There are naked demons covered in body paint flopping about the screen. One of them bent over, farted, and Friars came jumping out of his bum.

I quit.

– SH

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