Famous English duo rediscovered by Martin Scorsese

Famous English duo rediscovered by Martin Scorsese
Famous English duo rediscovered by Martin Scorsese

“Great, poetic, wise, daring, stubborn, in love with beauty, deeply romantic, completely uncompromising”has said Martin Scorsese about the movies of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburgerto which he dedicated a film that was seen in Berlin and that was released last Friday on the Mubi platform, “Made in England: The Films of Powell and Pressburger.”

It sounds exaggerated, but Scorsese knows about cinema, and also agrees with the opinion of several generations of viewers around the world. From those who still remember fascinated “Black Narcissus” and “The red sneakers”even horror lovers who have “Peeping Tom” on their altars, those who discovered in video stores “Parallel 49” and the reticent ones who could not find any fault with “The Battle of the River Plate”except for the character who appears on the dock and who looked more like a cowboy than a Uruguayan gaucho Carter’s beards of the “Billiken” comics (drawings directly inspired by Gabby Hayes, popular supporting actor in B-class westerns).


Still from “Black Narcissus”, the famous film by Powell and Pressburger

Scorsesewho is among those fascinated by the first hour, became a personal friend of Michael Powelland its usual editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, was Powell’s wife. The fourth, the final one, because the first lasted only three weeks, and so on. The thing is that, owner of an extensive and exclusive archive, Scorsese became executive producer and excited narrator of this documentary.

It is worth remembering the history of that duo. Powella pure-blooded Englishman, entered the cinema as a kitchen boy, worked his way up, in the 1930s he worked making around thirty one-hour films (romantic comedies, dramas of conscience, ghosts, spy films, determined little women, etc.), he participated with others in “The lion has wings”, praise from the RAF, and “The Thief of Baghdad””, a blockbuster of fantastic adventures in color.

In 1940 he met PressburgerHungarian of pure stock, born Imre Jozsef and renamed Emericjournalist, librettist of German and French films who, fleeing from Nazism, found his countryman Alexander Korda, who had become a prestigious British producer. He introduced them, they worked for him, then for Arthur Rank and for themselves, as The Archers, and then it seems that they quarreled. The latter was never entirely clear.

The thing is, between 1940 and 1957 they made a good handful of films, most of them brilliant and some exceptional. Among those of war, “Parallel 49”Oscar for Best Screenplay (crew members of a Nazi submarine stranded in Canada must fight their way through even if it means blood and fire), “One of Our Aircraft is Missing,” “A Canterbury Tale” (Chaucer updated), “Your worst enemy” (oneself), “The Battle of the Rio de la Plata”, “Night Ambush” and, in particular, “Stairway to Heaven”, fantastic romance with David Niven like a pilot at the gates of paradise. Everything depends on heavenly judgment, and the surgical operation that is being performed at that moment.

Then, the musical fantasies in color and great display: “The Red Shoes”, very popular, “The Tales of Hoffmann”both with the dancer Moira Shearerand comedy “Oh, Rosalind!”adaptation of the operetta “The bat”of Johann Straussthis time with the Allies and the Russians in post-war Vienna, “confronted” by a pretty, rather cheerful and unprejudiced lady.

Separate paragraph, “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp” , “The Scarlet Pimpernel” and, worthy of a frame, two jewels of formal exquisiteness and rare mystery, dedicated to intimate feminine impulses: “Black Narcissus”with Deborah Kerr like a nun in the Himalayas, and “Gone to Earth”with Jennifer Jones as a half-wild girl married to a cleric but attracted to the lord of the region.

Here it was called “Wild Heart”, In Spain they called her directly “The fox” (let’s not think badly, it happens that the girl protects a little fox, it’s all symbolic). There are two versions of this film. One, the one made by its authors. Another, the one imposed in the US by the producer David Selznickwith an explanatory text and additional shots by another director. These are things that happen, and which require careful tracking by those interested.

David Farrar He was the manly object of disturbance in both works. Also there, and in several previous ones, were the musician Brian Easdalethe directors of photography Chris Challis and Jack Cardiffthe art director Arthur Lawsonall major names.

After the dissolution of The Archers, Michael Powell He did among others “Peeping Tom” (here “Three faces of fear” either “The Panic Photographer”), portrait of a psychopath who recorded his victims while they were dying, which at the time frightened the public that followed him for his usual delicacy. He also made a good documentary, “Return to the end of the world”I return to a small island lost in the north of the British Isles, just to greet the people I had filmed with “World’s End”40 years earlier.

As to Pressburger, He did a comedy, some scripts for others, and home life. Her daughter was a producer, her two grandsons also direct and produce. One of them, Kevin McDonaldis responsible for both “Trainspotting”. She doesn’t seem to have Grandpa’s tastes.

Source: Ambito

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