Sunday, August 05, 2007

More Like Hate, Actually

Against my better judgement I watched the second part of British Film Forever to see if it would somehow manage to improve on last week’s execrable first episode. It didn’t.

It wasn’t a surprise that Longing, Loving and Leg-Overs: the Story of British Romance stumbled about like a drunken buffoon climbing out of the audience and trying to join the end of a chorus line. What was utterly staggering was, having been quite snarky last week about Diana Dors’ career and Orson Welles’ behaviour during the making of The Third Man, this time around the unbelievable cock knockers decided to take a pop at Powell & Pressburger. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!?

When you talk about Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger’s contribution to British cinema – or, in fact, world cinema – the superlatives start stacking up pretty damn quickly. If you compare their golden era of films made in the 1940s and early 1950s to other movies of the eras, their wit and invention, design, cinematography, and sheer virtuosity in filmmaking leaps off the screen and simply bowls you over.

Phil Jupitus seemed an odd choice of commentator but he was spot in his assessment of the delight in seeing the opening target appear on screen to announce A Production of The Archers – an image that always offered so much and delivered far greater. From then on, even with soundbites from Ian Christie, DP Jack Cardiff and Kevin Macdonald, Emeric's grandson who won an Oscar for the documentary One Day in September, the retarded fucknuts behind this big steaming 90-minute swirl of dog toffee seemed to make it their mission to put the pair down.

Black Narcissus is certainly melodramatic, but then Rumer Godden’s novel was about the English in the Colonies resisting the urge to go native and failing. And anyway, there’s Jack Cradiff’s utterly magisterial cinematography and the close-up of Kathleen Byron’s intense Sister Ruth putting on the bright red lipstick to marvel at. Then came The Red Shoes. Instead of celebrating it as the definitive ballet movie, the emphasis was on it signalling the downfall of the famous partnership. Huh?!

Yes, J. Arthur Rank and John Davis, The Rank Organisation’s chief executive, may have actively disliked the film and The Red Shoes may not have been commercially successful in the UK, but it was still bravura filmmaking that deserves to be celebrated. Popular elsewhere, it managed to garner BAFTA and Oscar nominations for Best Film, and won Hein Heckroth and Arthur Lawson Academy Awards for Best Art Direction and composer Brian Easdale for Best Score.

Once Powell and Pressburger left Independent Producers and returned to London Films they still followed their visions. Their quartet of movies made for Alexander Korda were still definitely recognisable Powell & Pressburger productions. Any problems came from London Films not having the surefooted financial backing as Rank. Korda’s need for international co-producers certainly led to problems with Samuel Goldwyn on The Elusive Pimpernel and David O. Selznick during production of Gone to Earth, their Hardy-esque adaptation of Mary Webb's Thomas’ novel, both of which were released in 1950.

If that was the end, what does it say about The Tales of Hoffmann which came out the year later? Like Oh... Rosalinda!!, their updated adaptation of Johan Strauss’ Die Fledermaus, their feverish and utterly exhilarating phantasmagorical interpretation of Offenbach’s unfinished fantasy opera is perhaps one of their finest achievements. Filmed to a pre-recorded soundtrack, The Tales of Hoffmann is unequalled in its marriage of music to moving imagery.

Sure, the partnership only lasted a couple more movies, during the years they went back to Rank. After Pressburger retired, Powell’s career was effectively destroyed by the unbridled ferocity of the criticism that greeted Peeping Tom, released twelve years after The Red Shoes. Still, the brief snippet of home-movie footage from Powell’s marriage to Thelma Schoonmaker was interesting, reminding me of his Who’s Who entry, in which Powell listed his recreation as ‘Leaning on gates’.

Oh, and if you want to discuss films about lost love, how come The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp didn’t get a mention? Or, in the case of love against all the odds, A Matter of Life and Death? Then again, they’ll probably be denigrated by these moronic, pustular production-monkeys in the forthcoming episode on war movies.


At 9:33 pm, Blogger Lucy said...

Give up on British Film my friend and watch the inspiredly-named BRUCE WEEK on ITV2 all week. We have UNBREAKABLE, DIE HARD, SIXTH SENSE, FIFTH ELEMENT, LAST BOY SCOUT etc all week! How can you resist? Last one there's a rotten egg.

At 9:45 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

And then there's the "Bruce" season with Jaws, Jaws 2, etc... on ITV1.

There's not enough money in the world to make me sit down and watch The Fifth Element again. It's when Mr Shouty comes on and the story stops dead in its tracks that kills it for me.

But... well, I was wondering what DVD to slip in because there's cock all else on. Aha! The Last Boy Scout.

At 10:21 am, Blogger Riddley Walker said...

I’ll take you out to see Die Hard 4.0 - you’ll laugh your cock off.

Great popcorn entertainment stuff.


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