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Foreign
From Albania to Zaire, there's a whole world out there.
183

Michael Powell
Topic by: Eoliano
Posted: January 11, 2003 - 7:49 AM PST
Last Reply: September 30, 2005 - 9:00 AM PDT

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author topic: Michael Powell
Eoliano
post #1  on January 11, 2003 - 7:49 AM PST  
Comments welcome!
dpowers
post #2  on January 12, 2003 - 12:26 PM PST  
i'd love to be able to hear a michael powell commentary on peter jackson's the lord of the rings. (maybe a sťance could be arranged.)

michael powell, alongside emeric pressburger, has made of the most incredible mythological stories, but using "modern" characters, in movies ranging from the edge of the world (which is out on DVD and would be nice to have on GC) to the arts-related the red shoes and tales of hoffman.

their vision of a poetic england, a poetic world, illuminating, transforming the lives of ordinary people, was inimitable.

i would argue that pressburger was one of a long line of foreign-born writers who was among the greatest of writers in their adopted language. in the UK, there's joseph conrad in prose, tom stoppard for the stage, and pressburger for cinema, and few if any had their facility with the language of their chosen form.

and powell was fearless in bringing pressburger's mythologized romanticism to the screen, creating new visual methods, retaining styles and methods from the silent era, whatever he and his directors of photography could come up with, simultaneously enjoying and rejecting the moral universe of the british empire, floating freely around the british isles, continental europe, canada, india, dreaming about how deeply people can feel their way through life.

it's such a different approach from hitchcock's that it almost seems as though you could say that hitchcock left not for technical reasons, but for emotional reasons, being more attracted to ahistorical "progress," not interested in english preoccupations with the land or history or folklore, and that powell and pressburger "stayed" and embraced that same fascination with locality, to extraordinary results.

my own feeling is that, to understand and discuss powell/pressburger, you have to go to japan, to look at kenji mizoguchi's movies, or then, to compare peeping tom with the thrillers and internal dramas from japan in the sixties and from the last few years.

this is a big difference from american romanticism. we tend to mythologize people by stripping them of ordinary human concerns, making them greater, making their desires larger and more deserving. powell and pressburger instead saw a gorgeous, huge world populated by people who were so focused on their own concerns they couldn't help but be wholly remade when the big world finally became apparent.

anyway, i think pressburger was a bit of a mystic, about england, and powell had prodigal ability with translating that mysticism to movies without losing anyone in esoterica. it's amazing.
dpowers
post #3  on January 12, 2003 - 12:31 PM PST  
> i would argue that pressburger was one of a long line of foreign-born writers who was among the greatest of writers in their adopted language. <

and you could reject that argument immediately if you insisted that "who were" is more grammatical than "who was." i might be able to debate that... i think it's pretty funny though. oh editor!
Eoliano
post #4  on January 13, 2003 - 8:47 AM PST  
>> i'd love to be able to hear a michael powell commentary on peter jackson's the lord of the rings.

I'm extremely happy having his commentary for Black Narcissus, Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and The Red Shoes on DVD, not to mention all the additional Powell related extras on Criterion's wonderful new transfer of IKWIG, which I happily watched last night. The excerpts from Edge of the World was a sublime teaser, so I'm putting in my request for GC to add the Milestone DVD to the catalog.

>> i would argue that pressburger was one of a long line of foreign-born writers who was among the greatest of writers in their adopted language.

Good point.




dwhudson
post #5  on January 13, 2003 - 11:05 AM PST  

>oh editor!

As far as I know, and pelikan might correct me on this, we have two options: 1) leave it as is or 2) we take down the whole post and repost, which, I'm guessing, would put the new, corrected post at the end of the topic.

Was/were isn't the issue, I know. Maybe down the line, when other priorities have been seen to, we can have a 'preview' option before we post. But you know, down the line.
Eoliano
post #6  on January 13, 2003 - 11:23 AM PST  
>> oh editor

>> we can have a 'preview' option before we post. But you know, down the line.

Having something like the same editing options used for reviews seems like a good idea.
Eoliano
post #7  on January 13, 2003 - 11:37 AM PST  


I wish the Michael Powell list could have been longer and included 49th Parallel, A Canterbury Tale and A Matter of Life and Death (all available on DVD in the UK), as well as the recently released The Edge of the World.
dpowers
post #8  on January 13, 2003 - 11:43 AM PST  
i can live with it. i've sent out enough speed-damaged grammar in emails over the years that i bet i could fake a "kids say the darnedest things" list out of them.

i thought in context it was funny to have made that mstaeki.

a preview mode would save me from some problems. all that html that ends up in the text makes it hard to proofread. but for things like those enormous notes from the first door on the right upstairs at yerba buena no such luck. i wanted it over and nothing but posting it would finish the affair.
dpowers
post #9  on January 13, 2003 - 11:50 AM PST  
i like 49th Parallel a lot and i've only seen it on bad VHS. i realize now that for having seen it, i got much more out of blimp the second time around, it's a good companion piece.
Eoliano
post #10  on January 13, 2003 - 12:26 PM PST  
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is marvelous; it gets better with repeated viewings. It's one of those films that I return to often, and usually smile almost non-stop through the entire film.
dwhudson
post #11  on January 13, 2003 - 2:02 PM PST  
> ... those enormous notes from the first door on the right upstairs at yerba buena no such luck. i wanted it over and nothing but posting it would finish the affair.

Well, that's our luck, then. What an amazing read. I had no idea about the sheer volume of material that landed in Rosenbaum's lap, how much time and devotion he gave to the project before Murch was called on board. Again: Many, many thanks, David.

To steer back to Powell, it wasn't that long ago -- maybe a month or two -- that I was channel-hopping and my thumb screeched to a halt at the sight of David Niven in a plane going down. And I didn't know what it was! I had never seen A Matter of Life and Death/Stairway to Heaven before. Hey, it happens.

And I was just riveted. This conversation between Niven and the woman (Kim Hunter, evidently; just went to look it up). The plane going down, just her face and the microphone. What is this? I was wondering. This is phenomenal. With one eye on the screen, I finally found the TV schedule and the first thing that caught my eye was "1946". 1946! Then, "Michael Powell".

Ah. Explained a lot. And of course, there was no channel-hopping for the next two hours.
Eoliano
post #12  on January 13, 2003 - 3:51 PM PST  
Yeah, DP, excellent reportage, and I bet Touch of Evil was a pristine print, too

I've a few titles in my cart at Amazon.uk that aren't on DVD here, and A Matter of Life and Death/Stairway to Heaven just happens to be one of them. It hasn't been broadcast here in some time. I keep hoping that Turner will show the film, but...


Eoliano
post #13  on January 13, 2003 - 4:09 PM PST  
FYI.

Unfortunately, Criterion postponed the release of Tales of Hoffman because of problems with the film elements, but it's expected to be released sometime this year.
dpowers
post #14  on January 13, 2003 - 5:06 PM PST  
dwhudson wrote:
> And I was just riveted. This conversation between Niven and the woman (Kim Hunter, evidently; just went to look it up). The plane going down, just her face and the microphone. What is this? I was wondering. This is phenomenal. <

this is "the archers" and jack cardiff with all their juices flowing. i love that movie, just love it, from the scene of heaven and the trial, the camera obscura and the hospital, the beach and the crash and everything. and i think what is most exciting about them is they made all these movies against the expressionist grain of citizen kane and film noir, building their own visual world out of gauze, canvas, root, and brick, it's just gorgeous.

Eoliano wrote:
> Criterion postponed the release of Tales of Hoffman <

you know i've been wanting to see this mostly because it's the only film of theirs that i ever read anyone describe as "failed." i'm just dying to see why.
Eoliano
post #15  on January 13, 2003 - 5:19 PM PST  

>>> Criterion postponed the release of Tales of Hoffman >

> you know i've been wanting to see this mostly because it's the only film of theirs that i ever read anyone describe as "failed." i'm just dying to see why.

It's sometimes static and stagy; colorful, lovely production, beautiful music (if you happen to like Offenbach - je pas) etc., but missing the dynamics of The Red Shoes, although it's not entirely a disaster.
dpowers
post #16  on January 14, 2003 - 6:20 PM PST  
i think if someone played offenbach to me and said, "that's offenbach," i'd say, "ah! that's offenbach!" and then i'd go about my day. i'm sure they must have picked the piece for a reason. now i really want to see it!
Eoliano
post #17  on January 14, 2003 - 9:34 PM PST  
His music is a matter of taste, love it or leave it. I'm not a fan of operetta, Offenbach or Johan Strauss. Richard Strauss on the other hand...

Eoliano
post #18  on February 5, 2003 - 10:25 AM PST  
>>dwhudson news item, February 5, 2003:

"I have fallen in love with another Powell and Pressburger film," blogs Allyn at Milk Plus. The film is The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and the blog is a fun, sometimes light, sometimes not-so-light thought-provoker.

Eoliano
post #19  on February 5, 2003 - 10:34 AM PST  
If you happen to be a Powell Pressburger fan, then drop by The Powell & Pressburger Pages.

For more on The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp go to the Blimp page.
Eoliano
post #20  on February 5, 2003 - 2:20 PM PST  
Reviews of Powell and Pressburger films
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