Powell and Pressburger make some of the best English-language films we’ve seen. But their wartime propaganda films are among the most, lets say, controversial we’ve discussed. Was Colonel Blimp a good movie? Maybe. Did it have among the worst morals we’ve seen in any film in the Collection? Almost certainly. But A Canterbury Tale combines the terribleness of The Archers’ wartime morality with a movie that is just not that good plot-wise. To the point where Adam argues that maybe the simplicity and idiocy of the plot is hint that the moral of the film is simplistic and idiotic and Powell and Pressburger know it. Here’s hoping.
This week the Criterion Collection brings us the spiritual successor to Powell and Pressburger’s phenomenal The Red Shoes, The Tales of Hoffmann (1951). An English translation of a French opera, based on the self-mythologizing of a German writer (E.T.A. Hoffmann), Tales combines the beauty of The Red Shoes ballet, with a frankly insane anthology of stories. Pat probably forgets that he didn’t really like The Red Shoes when we watched it, but still manages to think this is a bit flat compared to it. I think he’s just scared of Spalanzani’s eyebrows.
We return once again to films of The Archers, the illustrious British duo of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, with The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. Made during the blitz and released in 1943, Blimp is certainly a pro-war propaganda film, but specifically propagandizing what sort of war the British should be fighting. Spoiler: I find the moral of this film absolutely reprehensible. Pat doesn't find it much better. It's a long film with a lot going on, and as such this is a bit of a long episode. Enjoy!
A story as old as time itself! Woman wants to marry faceless rich dude, instead marries slightly less rich dude who's spent some amount of time berating her.
I Know Where I'm Going! is a 1945 "romantic film" from The Archers that hits a lot of the notes of the common romantic comedy without focusing on the comedy except this one is built on the foundation of a man cursed to marry a woman because an ancestor murdered a cheating wife. What a curse.
There's a lot to unpack here.
Before their masterpiece The Red Shoes Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger made a series of increasingly great films. We talk about two of them this week and next.
First up is 1947's Black Narcissus, a feverish technicolor condemnation of British imperialism in India. Well, that's one reading at least. At it's most basic it's about nuns that go crazy. Who doesn't love a story about insane nuns?
If Martin Scorsese weren't such a huge fan of The Red Shoes we may never have heard of Peeping Tom, a 1960 thriller directed by Michael Powell, co-director, co-producer, and co-writer of the greatest ballet film ever made. Not that Peeping Tom isn't great in its own right, but audiences and critics in 1960 Britain weren't keen on it, yet Scorsese demanded the world see it. Like the film in last week's episode, Peeping Tom gives Hitchcock a run for his money. Unlike Charade, however, Peeping Tom is a rather dark film. In that regard, this film shares similarities to Psycho which came out barely six months after Peeping Tom, mainly by focusing on a disturbed young man as a villain protagonist.
The pinnacle of a genre neither Pat nor I have ever really been aware existed. Well, I suppose Black Swan also counts as a ballet movie. Darren Aronofsky certainly owes quite a bit to Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (who credit themselves as The Archers) and their hallucinatory, layered 1948 adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale The Red Shoes.
The film is intense and gorgeous, fantastic and tragic. Pat didn't really like it.