Posts Tagged ‘Emeric Pressburger’

Scene from “A Matter of Life and Death”

Taking a small break this morning without mentioning the Supreme Court decision from yesterday, which speaks for itself. But I did want to mention that TCM is playing a favorite movie of mine, A Matter of Life and Death, tonight at 8 PM

Released in 1946 as Stairway to Heaven in the UK, it was created by the collaboration of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger along with legendary cinematographer Jack Cardiff. I am a huge fan of this team which made extremely interesting and thought provoking films– The Red Shoes, Parallel 49, Black Narcissus and so many others– with storylines that were well outside the norms of traditional cinema storytelling of the time, featuring spectacular visuals often filled with gorgeous saturated color and groundbreaking effects. This film very much fills all those boxes. 

It is a fantasy about a WWII British flyer who inexplicably survives the plane crash that was supposed to end his life which basically causes a rift in heaven. He falls from the sky and is found on an English beach by a US Army nurse. They form an instant bond which is the basis for the rest of this film as the flyer attempts to fend off the efforts of the heavenly agent sent to retrieve the wayward soul. It is said to be a metaphor for the revival of the British nation as well as the PTSD that was affecting so many returning troops in the post-war era.

It’s a beautiful film with scenes that alternate between great examples of Technicolor, black and white and super saturated color, each designating a different phase of the flyer’s experience. Film is, as with all arts, a subjective experience and I imagine that many folks will not find this to their liking. But for me, it’s a masterpiece. If you’re interested in great filmmaking, take a look tonight.

Here’s a link to an interesting article on this film from the Criterion Collection as well as the trailer, below, which was made for it’s recent restoration and theatrical re-release.

Read Full Post »

“Life Pop”- Now at the Principle Gallery

“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.”

― Noam Chomsky

I thought I would focus on being optimistic today.

It’s hard these days but it’s a necessity if you want to ever live in the future of your own desires. Planning and preparation are acts of optimism, carried out with the belief that you will be able to have a say in that future.

I have to admit though that my own optimism, my own capacity for looking and planning forward, has lessened over the course of this year. The future just didn’t seem so sure on most days. 

At least, a future with which I was comfortable and at least somewhat satisfied.

But like the words above from Noam Chomsky point out, you have to have some belief that you can shape the future and make it better, even if only in the smallest way.

This sort of optimism is a statement of responsibility.

It says, “I will.”

And that short phrase is enough to begin the process of moving toward that desired future.

Note: Speaking of planning ahead, a film from one of my favorite creative teams, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, is on TCM tonight at 10 PM. It’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, from 1943. It’s a film I wrote about here back in 2009.  Like all of the Powell and Pressburger movies, such as The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus, it’s beautifully crafted and thought provoking. The beginning sequence is ahead of its time, feeling like a modern music video. Worth a watch.

Have a good day.

Read Full Post »

Scene From”Black Narcissus”

Last month I wrote here about color influences and focused on the film work of filmmaker Jack Cardiff, particularly in the the movies of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.  Tonight, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is featuring an entire evening of the Cardiff-shot films of Powell and Pressburger as well as the documentary, Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff.  If you like films with a distinct look and a unique storyline, this is a great night to tune in.

The Cardiff documentary is very good and gives great insight to this innovative mind behind the movies.  For instance, it talks about the film Black Narcissus which is set in a convent in the Himalayas, with spectacular shots such as the one shown above.  The film is so wonderfully shot and lit that the viewer always feels that the film was shot on location in the high mountains.  Their is depth and naturalness in every view yet it was completely shot on a British studio lot with long views composed of papier-mache mountains and painted backdrops.   One of the people who worked on the film said that the sets were so brilliant that when you walked by a window with the mountains in the distance, you forgot for a moment where you were and believed you were  in the Himalyas.
The evening starts with The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp  , a movie I really hold in high esteem, and moves on to the Cardiff documentary.  That is followed by A Matter of Life and Death which was originally released as Stairway to Heaven .  It’s a great film with wonderful fantasy scenes shot in a reverse Technicolor monochrome that are quite striking.  The film, though not well known here, is considered by many film critics to be one of the greatest British films.
Then comes the incredible color and beauty of the ballet-based The Red Shoes.  I don’t know ballet but this is a spectacular film. The evening finishes up early in the morning with Black Narcissus
All are beautiful to see.  All have stories that are a bit unusual.  All have great impact.  I can’t speak for every taste here, knowing that many might see these and just not see what I see in them.  But for those who love great films, this is a great night to see some of the best.

Read Full Post »

Scene from Black Narcissus

As an artist, I am of course influenced by color in many things.  Obviously, the colors I have seen in the work of the great painters played a part in how I came to view color, such as the bold use of it by Van Gogh and the deepness of the greens and reds in Holbein’s masterpieces.  But even beyond painters I am influenced by color in so much that I see. 

This makes me think of a Coke television commercial from a number of years back, probably in the late 80’s or early 90’s.  It was in an urban setting with a Latin vibe but it wasn’t the setting that caught my eye.  It was the color of the whole ad.  Deep, dark throbbing colors.  Reds that looked like they poured out of a beating heart.  Gorgeous rich golds.  All shot in a very cinematic manner, much richer in texture than one would expect from a TV ad.  Every time I would see it I would stop and just stare, taking it all in.  I don’t think I was painting yet and it really made a big impression on how I viewed color and made me think that I could find expression in color.

Another influence is in the work of the great cinematographers of the movie world.  I especially think of the movies from the earliest years of color use in the films, movies like Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, which both were extraordinary in their use of color.  But, for me, the work of Jack Cardiff in the films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger takes the cake.  In movies like The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus, A Matter of Life and Death, The Tales of Hoffman and The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp ( a favorite of mine), Cardiff used color in a way that added even more depth to the story, making the eye want to settle on the scene at hand and take it all in.  The images and the opulent color  from these films often lingered in my head for weeks after seeing them and when I am at the easel I find myself still trying to capture that same atmosphere that he was able to create on film.

I mention this today because I want to remind anyone interested that TCM is featuring the work of Jack Cardiff in January and will be airing a documentary, Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff  along with a number of the films that showed off his great skill, both as a cinematographer and a director.  It’s a great opportunity to see some of his color work that that been called decadent by some writers.  When I read that description, I nodded because that is exactly what it felt like– grand, luscious decadence.

Good stuff.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: