|A Matter of
Life And Death: The Films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
An Aero Theatre Exclusive!
Discuss this series with other film fans on:
Michael Powell called their partnership "a marriage
without sex," and Emeric Pressburger said, "Ours is an ideal way of
working together, and at the same time, working separately." It was an unlikely
pairing of the lean, unmistakably British Powell and the stocky, worldly Hungarian
Pressburger that resulted in some of the most intelligently written, beautifully conceived
and photographed, and gloriously romantic films in cinema history, including BLACK
NARCISSUS, I KNOW WHERE IM GOING and A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH. Born in
1905 in Bekesbourne, near Canterbury, England, Powell abandoned a career as a banker in
the mid-1920s to pursue filmmaking, first as assistant to expatriate American
director Rex Ingram in France, and later as a still photographer on Alfred
Hitchcocks CHAMPAGNE. Powell got his own chance to direct in the early 1930s,
churning out a series of "quota quickies" before breaking out with his first
truly personal picture, THE EDGE OF THE WORLD. Born in 1902 in Miskolc, Hungary,
the young Pressburger moved to Berlin in 1925, where he worked as a film critic until
director Robert Siodmak, impressed by some of his reviews, gave him a job as screenwriter
at the U.F.A. Studios. After Hitlers rise to power, Pressburger fled first to Paris,
then London, where he continued working as a writer. (Sadly, Pressburgers mother and
most of his extended family died in the Nazi concentration camps.) Brought together in
1939 by producer Alexander Korda to work on THE SPY IN BLACK, Powell and Pressburger
immediately recognized each other as kindred spirits. Beginning in 1943 with THE LIFE AND
DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP, and continuing on a total of 13 feature films through ILL MET BY
MOONLIGHT in 1957, they took the unique collaborative credit of "written, produced
and directed by" both men although by their own admission, Pressburger
concentrated primarily on screenwriting (with Powells creative input), while Powell
handled most of the actual on-set directing. This series is an opportunity to see some of
Powell and Pressburgers best known (and rarest) films as a team and individually.
Wednesday, February 15 - 7:30 PM
Restored 35mm print!
BLACK NARCISSUS, 1947, UA (Sony), 99 min. Written,
produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Powell and
Pressburgers exquisite (and surprisingly erotic) drama of spiritual devotion and
earthly temptation stars the luminous Deborah Kerr as a nun nearly overwhelmed by
the physical beauty of her new Himalayan home, and the worldly charms of rugged David
Farrar. Widely hailed as one of the most visually stunning films ever made (courtesy of
d.p. Jack Cardiffs Oscar-winning cinematography). Co-starring Sabu, Jean Simmons,
Flora Robson. "Color, sex, exotic locations it was a big hit in
austerity-stricken England!" Michael Powell.
Thursday, February 16 - 7:30 PM
A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH
(aka STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN), 1946, Columbia (Sony), 104 min. Written, produced and
directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. This breathtaking
meditation on the mercies of love and the cruelties of fate stars David Niven as a
WWII pilot pleading his case in Heaven, claiming that he was not meant to die and should
be allowed to return to lovely Kim Hunter on earth. Roger Livesey co-stars as the
doctor who becomes Nivens solicitor on the astral plane, with the delightful Marius
Goring as a dandified angel.
Friday, February 17 - 7:30 PM
This screening is dedicated to Moira
Shearer who passed away in January.
THE RED SHOES, 1948, UA (Sony), 133
min. Written, produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.
A delirious, shimmering Technicolor dream of a movie starring Scottish
dancer-turned-actress Moira Shearer (in her film debut) as an aspiring ballerina
caught between the maniacal, domineering passion of impresario Anton Walbrook and
the equally controlling love of composer Marius Goring. An awesome, superbly fluid
blending of music, dance and cinematography (courtesy of the great Jack Cardiff).
"The flaming red-headed
dancer who starred in the most famous ballet movie is dead. Moira Shearer died
Tuesday at the age of 80. KPCC's John Rabe reports.
In Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Red Shoes, Moira
Shearer plays a beautiful and talented ballerina torn between the composer she loves and
the manipulative and jealous ballet company manager who wants her. The movie was was a
huge international hit and was nominated for best picture. It's considered one of the ten
best British films.
It's inspired generations of dancers and balletomanes, but it
was Shearer's first film. She was born in Scotland and became principal dancer at London's
famous Sadler's Wells in 1942. Though she took roles in later films, Shearer remained
ambivalent toward movies, preferring to focus on dance.
If you've never seen The Red Shoes, made in 1948, it's showing
at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica on Tuesday the 17th, as part of a Powell
-- John Rabe, 89.3-KPCC
Saturday, February 18 - 7:30 PM
PEEPING TOM, 1960, Rialto Pictures,
101 min. Dir. Michael Powell. Almost universally reviled by critics on its initial
run, but now looked on as a masterpiece of psychological horror, PEEPING TOM all but
killed Powells career when it was released. In an unforgettably creepy and affecting
performance, Carl Boehm stars as a shy, gentle photographer, who is really a
tormented serial killer filming his female victims at their moment of death. Boehms
crush on boarding house tenant Helen (Anna Massey) brings on a crisis that can result only
in redemption or destruction. Insightful and subversive, PEEPING TOM poses difficult
questions about the universal desire for voyeuristic thrills and the very nature of
Sunday, February 19 - 6:00 PM
New Restored 35mm Print! AGE OF CONSENT, 1969, Columbia (Sony), 103 min. Dir.
Michael Powell. James Mason is at his crotchety, hard-drinking best as
rabelaisian artist, Bradley Morrison, sojourning on a remote isle off the Great Barrier
Reef to try to jumpstart his dried-up muse. He finds inspiration unexpectedly in the form
of nubile free spirit, Cora Ryan (a delightful, gorgeous Helen Mirren in one of her
earliest roles), an outspoken teenager living with her alcoholic harridan of an aunt (Neva
Carr-Glynn). With a great turn by Jack MacGowran (CUL-DE-SAC, FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS) as
Masons neer-do-well friend and Harold Hopkins as Mirrens smitten,
wanna-be beau. Masons Morrison character was based on painter, Norman Lindsay,
famous for his sumptuous paintings of voluptuous nudes in natural settings. NOT ON VIDEO!
Wednesday, February 22 - 7:30 PM
GONE TO EARTH, 1950, David O.
Selznick Prod. (Walt Disney Co.), 110 min. Written, produced and directed by Michael
Powell and Emeric Pressburger. One of Powell and Pressburgers most
gloriously mystical films stars the enchanting Jennifer Jones as an orphaned
country girl, who lives surrounded by magic, superstition and wild forest animals. David
Farrar (BLACK NARCISSUS) co-stars as the aristocratic squire who finds himself
bewitched by Jones charms. Released in a tragically-shorted version in the U.S. as
THE WILD HEART, this is a restored print of the full-length British version! NOT ON VIDEO!
Thursday, February 23 - 7:30 PM
THE EDGE OF THE WORLD,
1937, Milestone Films, 73 min. Dir. Michael Powell. A major rediscovery, recently
restored by the British Film Institute and Milestone Films, THE EDGE OF THE WORLD was
Michael Powells first truly personal picture, as well as one of his most wildly
poetic. Set on the remote, rocky crag of Foula (called in the film "Hirta") in
the Scottish Shetland Islands, EDGE OF THE WORLD follows three young friends (Niall
MacGinnis, Eric Berry and Belle Chrystall) struggling against the inevitable end of their
ages-old way of life. The weather on Foula was so fierce that young director Powell and
crew had to be airlifted off after two weeks of storms but not before he captured
some of the most unforgettably lovely black-and-white images ever put to film.
Saturday, February 25 - 7:30 PM
I KNOW WHERE IM GOING,
1945, UA (Sony Repertory), 124 min. Written, produced and directed by Michael Powell and
Emeric Pressburger. Along with Jean Vigos LATALANTE, this is our choice
for the most heartbreakingly romantic film ever made. The great Wendy Hiller stars
as a girl determined to marry for money, not love until she finds herself trapped
by high seas in a small Scottish town with local laird Roger Livesy. As the days go
by, Hiller becomes more and more desperate to leave not realizing that her
lifes destination has already, magically, irreversibly, changed.
CANTERBURY TALE 1944, UA (Sony
Repertory), 124 min. Written, produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric
Pressburger. A beautifully told, and surprisingly intricate interweaving of the
stories of four contemporary "pilgrims" an American and a British
soldier, a British "Land Girl," and a local magistrate/historian in the
village of Canterbury during World War II. A CANTERBURY TALE is filled with Powell and
Pressburgers marvelous, worldly humor along with one of their most bizarre
and disturbing characters in the form of the mysterious "Glue Man," pouring
paste into the hair of young girls as they sleep! (Interestingly, Powell himself was born
not far from Canterbury, and educated at Kings School there.) Starring Thomas
Colpeper, Alison Smith and Bob Johnson. (Released in the U.S. in a shortened 95 min.
version, this is the original 124 min. U.K. version.)
Sunday, February 26 - 6:00 PM
THIEF OF BAGDAD, 1940, UA (Sony
Repertory), 106 min. Dir. Ludwig Berger, Michael Powell, Tim Whelan (and,
uncredited, Alexander Korda, Zoltan Korda and William Cameron Menzies). One of the
greatest fantasies ever made: rascally young thief Sabu helps deposed Prince Achmad
regain the rightful throne of Bagdad, with the help of a massive genie (Rex Ingram), a
flying horse, an all-seeing jeweled eye, and the love of a beautiful Princess (June
Duprez). Conrad Veidt co-stars as the wicked usurper Jaffar, who uses every means
at his disposal to stop our brave heroes. Soaring score by Miklos Rozsa, with photography
by Georges Perinal (THE LIFE & DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP).