Author Topic: Filmspotting Powell-Pressburger Marathon  (Read 5237 times)

Totoro

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Re: Filmspotting Powell-Pressburger Marathon
« Reply #30 on: November 16, 2011, 03:02:55 PM »
I just re edited the review to possibly make better sense of myself.

It's one of those examples of "I respect it for what it did, but I personally didn't care for it".

verbALs

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Re: Filmspotting Powell-Pressburger Marathon
« Reply #31 on: November 16, 2011, 03:35:18 PM »
Thanks for putting your thoughts into words. This is a very difficult movie to get any read on, so the attempt- a positive or negative is worthwhile. To echo the comment you put from MT, this is how it made me feel;

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You will get the wrong idea about this WWII slice of English rural life, if I say I fell asleep about an hour in as the three protagonists hunt a village for a guy putting glue in girls' hair. That's the dramatic core of the film. However, ACT is like a warm blanket that you pull up to your chin very comforting and familiar, very easy to relax into.

I couldn't ignore the fact that this is Powell's story about where he grew up & as a very personal representation it is both familiar and so personal it is alienating. I also love that P&P's war films supposedly propaganda pieces are so incredibly quirky. All I can say is that part of the world is as magical as the film makes it feel.
I used to encourage everyone I knew to make art; I don't do that so much anymore. - Banksy

MartinTeller

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Re: Filmspotting Powell-Pressburger Marathon
« Reply #32 on: November 16, 2011, 03:46:23 PM »
"Warm blanket" was my description as well:

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When I think of the Archers, "odd" isn't the word that first comes to mind.  But when you think about it, even if they didn't do Jodorowsky-esque mindCINECAST!s, a lot of their work had a strangeness or strange element to it.  Black Narcissus, Tales of Hoffmann, The Red Shoes, A Matter of Life and Death... and this one, a film that isn't that weird on the surface but is damn near impossible to classify.  The movie has a plot but doesn't seem terribly interested in sticking to it... it presents a series of glimpses into rural English life, and yet is not merely a collection of pastoral episodes.  Whatever it is, it creeps under your skin, or more accurately embraces you like a warm blanket.  The ease and simplicity of the storytelling (aided by the lovely cinematography) draws you in to the lives of these characters, especially Shiela Sims and John Sweet (whose performance is amateurish in the most endearing way).  It's all so quaint, but never to the point of being twee.  I didn't need to buy this DVD, but it was nice returning to it, it's got such a "homey" feel to it.  Rating: 8

I probably would buy it again if they upgraded it to Blu-Ray.
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Totoro

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Re: Filmspotting Powell-Pressburger Marathon
« Reply #33 on: November 17, 2011, 12:55:14 AM »
Let's move on.


BLACK NARCISSUS (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1947)
I could endlessly count how many films this has inspired. It must have left a huge impression on Von Trier because his last two films have dealt with the darker side of the relationship humanity has with nature. This has to be the film where Kubrick stole his signature stare from as well. Taking the "man/woman vs. nature" plot structure to the extreme, the Archers have crafted a lush fever dream that accelerates to a jaw dropping finality that would make Hitchcock proud. It is, at times, pretty bizarre, but it never off putted me. BLACK NARCISSUS follows a group of nuns who are commanded to start a convent in the Himalayas. Once there, they encounter a dichotomous set of characters - Mr. Dean and Phuba - and find themselves struggling between the paths that they have chosen. Mr. Dean is a masculine hedonist whereas Phuba is a man who lives in complete solitude. How do you decide where the wall is? Do you embrace the nature fully and live with it or do you reject it completely? It's an interesting question and one that isn't realized enough. As said before, the imagery is really quite lush and, at points, gorgeously awe-inspiring. This may just be the most beautiful film of all time. Not a single shot feels wasted - everything comes together in a magnificent way. Deborah Kerr gives a phenomenal performance - it's a master class of restrained acting. Her eyes are captivating! You can tell through her eyes that she does have some feelings for Mr. Dean. The way she moves them when he's around, the way she somewhat forcibly gets more on edge whenever he enters the room or starts up a discussion all suggests that there's something more to their unlikely  friendship. Kerr has been an actress I usually write off - I've seen some films with her, but was never terribly impressed. I'd believe that a habit would make for some difficulty in acting. It very much restrains body movement and lacks individuality. Luckily, the Archers accentuate the fact that the only thing we can only see is this face by giving these angled close ups that feel incredibly intimate. This creates even more tension because we don't think of nuns to be particularly intimate people. By pushing us close to them, the typical nun archetype is shattered. These people are human beings. Kerr uses full advantage of her face putting other actors to shame. Equally mesmerizing is Kathleen Byron as the sick Sister Ruth, who pushes the envelope on crazy whacko characters even 60+ years later. Everything about this film is pretty much perfect. If you've seen it and it's not in your top 100, I just don't understand you.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2011, 01:20:28 AM by Totoro »

verbALs

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Re: Filmspotting Powell-Pressburger Marathon
« Reply #34 on: November 17, 2011, 10:49:15 AM »
I agree with your praise and it is in my top 100.

The thought that came to me reading your review; that this may be the most beautiful film of all time. The power of what are painted backgrounds combined with that cinematography is amazing. There should be room in modern cinema where filmmakers choose to go down this route to achieve a unique "look" to their films. Another instance is in model-making. Douglas Trumball made a very good point that light effects and shading from cgi tends to start looking samey before being overhauled every few years. He also said that cgi was now more expensive than model-making (and I suppose he would know). It is probably more that these skills; scene painting & model-making get lost to an over-reliance on computers.
I used to encourage everyone I knew to make art; I don't do that so much anymore. - Banksy

Totoro

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Re: Filmspotting Powell-Pressburger Marathon
« Reply #35 on: December 03, 2011, 01:14:16 AM »

THE RED SHOES (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1948)
I have a problem some might call a nitpick, but it does affect my decision on a film greatly. I hate any and every use of blackface. It sticks out like a sore thumb to me and instantly decreases my appreciation and enjoyment of a movie. In THE RED SHOES, you can blink and miss it. I bet some of you did. But during one of the many lovely dance sequences, there's a blackface man and at that point, I started to think less of the movie. Little did I know that wouldn't be my only problem. Let me start out though by saying that THE RED SHOES is a visually sumptuous film, one that's endlessly pleasing aesthetically. I love how the film cuts away from dialogue for what seems to be about 30 minutes and shows us the best pieces of the ballet. The parallels between the ballet and the actual story of the piece, while straightforward, are appreciated and make for a wonderful film about art. However, it doesn't make the film a wonderful narrative about the decision between art and love, something that I found to be a bit of a problem. BLACK NARCISSUS is a powerhouse of a film because the duo impeccably balances the dichotomy. Here, they're less capable. While we see interactions between the dancer and the composer early in the film, towards the end we take an enormous leap with the revealing that they've been in love this entire time. With so many scenes with Lermontov and Vicki talking about and displaying their everlasting devotion to their art, I can't help but feel more on the impresarios's side than the romance one. The latter feels rushed and underdeveloped. When the composer comes around at the end, I was baffled. Why not let her dance? What's the problem? Oh, but then Lermontov has a problem too apparently. The film is a byproduct of its times and that's fine. Women can only do one or the other, they can't balance anything. So, I understand that the end is essentially a woman caught between two sexists. I just don't feel that the lover's struggle was strong enough. I didn't quite believe it, you could say. Perhaps this is due to the overpowering and amazing performance by Anton Walbrook. I'll be talking about him later in my COLONEL BLIMP review, but just what a screen presence. He's truly deserving of the moniker, "Bad Ass MotherCINECAST!er". And he looks deliciously sexy as well. Sexier than even Moira Shearer, who's a fantastic dancer, but kind of a forgettable actress. The make up works wonders in having me remember her. Red is the most attractive color and it's bursting in every frame here. While BLACK NARCISSUS might just be the most beautiful film of all time (mainly due to the repressed nature of the beauty), this might be the most colorful film of all time. These Archers guys are obsessed with color. It's such a shame not many contemporaries are. What else to say? Oh, the beginning was fun. The appreciation that the college kids have the theatre made me smile. The lack of a cut away was brilliant. I'm glad I own it for the beauty of the imagery alone.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2011, 01:17:19 AM by Totoro »

Totoro

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Re: Filmspotting Powell-Pressburger Marathon
« Reply #36 on: December 03, 2011, 04:34:42 AM »

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1943)
Oh yes. This is an epic through and through. It's such an epic that, at times, it feels like the Archers are having difficulty tame it. No wonder their later films are, comparatively, smaller in scope and a lot shorter as well. The plot is a mess. Is this film about Candy? Or is it about the friendship between Candy and Theo? Is it about the changing face of war? Is it about the pursuit of love? It's all of these things, of course, but where there's a lot of threads, they're sloppily tied together. I feel like the film wants to be all things at once, but the overall pace of the film undermines the impact when these plot lines come to full fruition. We get about 30 minutes of set up to what I believe is the core of the film - the friendship between Theo and Candy - but then I realize even that's not the core. Why? Well, the first instance that made me notice this is when the Archers cut us away from their duel. The second was when they seemed to fast forward their friendship when they're recovering together. I never felt that they were close, but rather friendly acquaintances. The film moves past the Boer War - the weakest segment of the film that could easily be shortened - into World War 1. Here we pick up a bit and watch Candy develop as a high ranking soldier. But even then he gets distracted by a possible romance. It looks like his love for a similar looking girl that he lost would lead somewhere, but it ultimately doesn't. Why make Deborah Kerr play three roles? Oh, I have no idea. Suddenly the friendship between Theo and Candy comes important again. I don't know why. I see why it's called COLONEL BLIMP - like a blimp, the movie just floats around, never landing in one spot. Theo makes this great speech about Nazism. It's a good scene! The camera moves to his face and few scenes have ever felt as personal as this one. BLIMP is filled with good scenes, but it all feels pulled along by a string. In between these great scenes are story elements that feel, for the most part, like filler. It got tiring after awhile. The thing that absolutely saves the lackluster story for me are the performances. While Walbrook has a handful of showy actor scenes and practically emanates sexiness along with badassery, Livesy threw me for a loop. He's totally a douchebag in the beginning. It was getting on my nerves. But the transitions to the older versions of himself seemed seamless. He was different enough to be believable that changes occurred, but similar enough to feel the very faint chip-on-the-shoulder annoying prick. It's one of those performances where the actor lives within the character. The make up doesn't distract one bit nor does it overpower the performance. It's kind of shocking that they didn't change actors once. It's definitely shooting up in my top 100 performances list. I was surprised to not find the cinematography to be as mind blowing as other Archers films, but it didn't bug me too much. There's some fascinating use of composition here. A lot more restrained than their future work. At times it's breathtakingly beautiful. At other times, it's simply okay. The production design is fabulously detailed and the costumes are deliciously period. I feel like my reaction is more lukewarm than I'm intending. Okay, so maybe someday I'll give this another chance and love it? It's a mostly excellent film. One I'd possibly call a "messterpiece".
« Last Edit: December 03, 2011, 01:31:13 PM by Totoro »

verbALs

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Re: Filmspotting Powell-Pressburger Marathon
« Reply #37 on: December 03, 2011, 05:06:34 AM »
Good reviews, and I like how you make the effort to put your finger on what isn't working for you, not resorting to the glib negative comments that are easy to trot out.

I haven't seen many second viewings of Blimp that haven't said that it was a lot more coherent a film on rewatching, when you have an idea of the structure and the pacing. Personally, I love the Boer War sequence in Berlin the most. The beer hall scene strikes a chord with me (Englishman in Berlin probably) and I would explain the way the camera floats away from the duel as being necessary to set up the next scene where you don't know who that is in the hospital bed (you suspect Candy obviously). However, the cinematic beauty of the shot drifting away through the snow is enough explanation for me- it's just gorgeous.

As for your comment about the outstanding beauty of Black Narcissus & The Red Shoes use of colour, I think you might enjoy A Matter of Life and Death for both reasons. It also completes that three film post war cycle that goes AMOLAD, BN, TRS. The three fit together (Godfather, The Conversation, Godfather 2 may be the only better three in a row)
« Last Edit: December 03, 2011, 05:10:36 AM by verbALs »
I used to encourage everyone I knew to make art; I don't do that so much anymore. - Banksy

oldkid

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Re: Filmspotting Powell-Pressburger Marathon
« Reply #38 on: December 03, 2011, 11:01:27 AM »
It's funny, Totoro, because although I can see that you enjoyed most of these P&P films, just as I did, you ended up on the other side of most of them from me.  The one I couldn't get my emotions around was Black Narcissus-- it just seemed too cold and distant for a film that speaks of uncontrolled emotions.  And it is mostly because of the performances of the two leading women-- one being unbelievably reserved and the other unbelievably setting caution to the wind.

A Canterbury Tale shouldn't directly be compared to the book, I think.  And the "glue man" is a red herring.  The real issue is how all of these lives reach a climax at Canterbury-- they were all on a pilgrimage, but they didn't know it.  The interesting background to the characters turn out to be significant in the end.  I felt that it put the whole movie on its head and did so brilliantly.  This might be my favorite story from the P&P I've seen so far.

I really need to see The Red Shoes again.  I absolutely loved it, but I am not sure if I did a Saving Private Ryan and claimed to love the whole movie because of one long sequence-- in this case the ballet.  I love how it all fit together and the color, but was the ending too predictable? I need to see how I feel about it a second time around.

As far as Colonel Blimp-- you do know that the title of the film is from comic strip, to which it bears almost no resemblance, right?-- it may be a mess, but it is a brilliant mess.  A genius of a mess.  I am tired of biopics that treat a life as nice and neat, fitting into compartments and tied up with a ribbon at the end.  This is the first one that we can see the full messiness of a life-- the stupidity, the romance, the friendships, the disappointments, the glories-- all mixed up together as it really is.  Although fictional, it seemed more real than any other biography I've seen.  I wouldn't change it an ounce.
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mousterpiece

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Re: Filmspotting Powell-Pressburger Marathon
« Reply #39 on: December 05, 2011, 10:24:13 AM »
I'll also agree that your reviews, Totoro, are great, even if I don't completely agree. (Read: I love A Canterbury Tale. Very little happens, but I can't help but embrace it in that warm-blanket feeling.) Red Shoes, Black Narcissus, ACT, I Know Where I'm Going, Blimp, Small Back Room, and Matter of Life and Death in seven consecutive years is mind-blowing to me. Nobody could do that now, even if they were given creative control/license. I'm legitimately tempted to rewatch all of those over the holiday break, as I own them but haven't watched in a year or so.

Also, I cannot wait to see what you think of AMOLAD. That's also a peak film for the Archers.
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