Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.
A lot of the documents have been sent to me or have come from other web sites. The name of the web site is given where known. If I have unintentionally included an image or document that is copyrighted or that I shouldn't have done then please email me and I'll remove it.
I make no money from this site, it's purely for the love of the films.
[Any comments are by me (Steve Crook) and other members of the email list]
Famous fans of Powell and Pressburger
Here are a few people who have said they have been influenced by or admire the works of Powell & Pressburger (either together or singley).
The list doesn't include people who worked with them in the films that P&P wrote/produced/directed because we know everyone who worked with them then was influenced by and admired them :)
There is no significance to any ordering on this page, apart from maybe Mr Scorsese as the name at the top. As their primary champion he deserves the top place. But after him, there is no significance to the order of the names. I include the names here to thank them and to show how widespread the influence of P&P is.
- Martin Scorsese
- Probably their greatest fan. Worked and socialised with Micky quite extensively. Has acknowledged the influence of P&P films on his own work.
At the dedication of the Powell Building at Canterbury Christ Church College in October 1999, Thelma Schoonmaker-Powell gave a talk on the various influences of P&P on Scorsese's films.
Thelma made the point that Scorsese never COPIED any P&P scene but that a LOT of them had major influences on him. Marty would watch the P&P films, inwardly digest and consider the scenes and then produce his own scenes in his own way - but he gladly acknowledges the influence that P&P in general and certain P&P scenes in particular had on him & his films.
- Raging Bull (1980)
- Thelma said how Scorsese & De Niro both watched Blimp quite a bit just before making Raging Bull. De Niro asked Powell how it was done, especially the scene in the Turkish bath. Powell told him "Skilful & judicious use of a body double, some very clever body make up & padding - and ACTING"
Powell was horrified when De Niro decided to put on the weight himself. That "method" has a lot to answer for.
Thelma described how they filmed Bobby as the young Jake. Then he went away and put on a few pounds and they shot him for the middle aged Jake. Then "Bobby ate his way through France" and then they filmed him as old and fat Jake.
The other major influence in Raging Bull is from The Red Shoes when Lermontov realises he's lost Vicky - the way he talks to himself influenced the way they did the scene where Jake is preparing to go on stage & is psyching himself up. It's De Niro as Jake as Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront. (It's not an obvious influence but Thelma said that Marty said he had it in mind as they shot it)
Also the way that the fight scenes weren't shown in all their gory detail was influenced by the way we withdraw from the duel in Blimp. The details of the combat aren't really all that important. It's the effect that's important.
From Scorsese's interview on the MGM Blu-Ray edition:
For years, many have debated why Scorsese shot Raging Bull in black and white. As he explains in the bonus content, when first screening the 8-mm test footage of De Niro sparring in a ring, the director did not like the image. At first, he was unable to figure out why. Michael Powell, an older director who had become a mentor and good friend to Scorsese in the 1970s, suggested that the color of the gloves was throwing off the picture, drawing attention away from the fighters' faces and creating imbalance. The rest is history.
- Goodfellas (1990)
- The concentration in Robert Helpmann's eyes in the duel scene in act two of The Tales of Hoffmann was an influence on the way that De Niro looks around the bar to the sound of Sunshine of your Love.
- Taxi Driver (1976)
- Helpmann's eyes in the The Tales of Hoffmann duel also influenced the closeups of the eyes of Travis Bickle in the taxi's rear view mirror.
- The Age of Innocence (1993)
- The wash of yellow filling the screen when Michelle Pfeffier receives her yellow roses is inspired by Kathleen Byron's "seeing red" when she's angry before she faints in Black Narcissus.
Final scene sitting on the bench
c.f. scene near end of Blimp where the 3 lead characters are sitting on the bench in the square.
This film alsos has a character called Newland Archer and his family, are they The Archers?
- The Color of Money (1986)
- The superimposition as Paul Newman sits watching Tom Cruise play.
c.f. The superimposition as Ruth considers her fate in The Edge of the World.
- Casino (1995)
- The "Everybody is watching everybody else" sequence
c.f. The swish pans as Vicky is dancing at The Mercury Theatre in The Red Shoes
- The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
- As Jesus ends his dream of what a normal life might have been like.
c.f. Peter getting his halo on the train in A Canterbury Tale.
- Kundun (1997)
- Various "composed" sequences acted to playback
c.f. The "composed" part towards the end when Ruth is stalking Clodagh in Black Narcissus.
c.f. The completely "composed" film, The Tales of Hoffmann (1951)
- After Hours (1985)
- The keys thrown down from an apartment window
c.f. The pens falling from Mark's pocket in Peeping Tom.
c.f. The ties that Julian throws out when Vicky says she's coming with him in The Red Shoes
Thelma assured us that they were just a few examples. She asked Marty what she should show before she came and he said he couldn't decide because P&P influences were all over his films.
- Thelma Schoonmaker-Powell
- Martin Scorsese's editor. Thelma won the Oscar for editing Raging Bull, The Aviator & The Departed and was nominated for editing Woodstock, Goodfellas & Gangs of New York.
She liked Micky so much she married him :)
- Francis Ford Coppola
- Invited Micky to be his "Director in residence" at Zoetrope studios.
Was often heard to be singing the "I Want To Be A Sailor" song from The Thief of Bagdad.
Watched Black Narcissus with the masses when it was shown at the 2002 Donostia - San Sebastián film festival when he was there for a tribute.
- George A. Romero
- Favourite films include The Tales of Hoffmann and Powell is one of his favourite directors.
See also George A. Romero presents "Tales of Hoffman" (sic)
and George on The Tales of Hoffmann (at TIFF '99)
- Steven Spielberg
- Mentioned his liking of P&P to Kathleen Byron when he cast her as Mrs Ryan in Saving Private Ryan (1998).
From an interview with Steven Spielberg in the August edition of Empire magazine:
Q: You broke into Hollywood along with other young, bearded Turks. Has the notion of movie brats been over mythologised?
SS: I don't like that name so much. I don't think we were brats at all. We were a consolidated iteration of the generation that spawned Bogdanovich, Coppola and Friedkin. We were simply the next wave. We never thought of ourselves as brats. We thought ourselves as nerds. I wish they'd called us the 'Movie Nerds' 'cos that's what we really were. Brats has a connotation of arrogance, and spoilt, and being entitled. We were gobbling up images as fast as as they would come. We were speaking this dialogue from the great movies of the '30's and '40's out loud, led by Scorsese who knew more than anyone else put together.
He inspired us to look at movies we'd never heard of before. He'd get these 16mm Michael Powell films that we'd all sit around looking at. It was a great time, a great generation.
- Cecil B. DeMille
- After seeing The Tales of Hoffmann, he wrote a fan letter to Powell & Pressburger.
- Josef von Sternberg
- In his autobiography (Fun in a Chinese Laundry. New York: Macmillan, 1965.), Josef von Sternberg makes a list of some films he especially admires, writing, "It is difficult to forget the camera work and effects of The Tales of Hoffmann, or Los Olvidados, Seven Samurai, Cry the Beloved Country, El cochecito, or Rocco e i suoi fratelli."
In a footnote to Tales of Hoffmann, he writes: "Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, aided by the ingenious Hein Heckroth." Of course it makes total sense that Von Sternberg would be particularly keen on the production design and would note the designer. (and costumes too of course)
- Derek Jarman
- Often quoted P&P as a major influence.
His version of The Tempest (1979) is thought to be the version that Michael Powell might well have made (Powell had a script prepared but couldn't raise the funding).
Derek Jarman & Jack Cardiff taked about Micky in an obituary programme on BBC2 (The Late Show) the night Micky died.
See also extract from Derek Jarman's diary.
- Ridley Scott
- Quoted as an admirer of P&P (and others of that era) ...
What I loved about that school was the all-encompassing detail they would bring to the screen - not just with story and character - but everything in the screen from left to right and right to left was considered. And that appealed to my sensibility.
Also noted is the recurrence of red in a few of his films and some similarities to Colonel Blimp in Scott's The Duellists.
Then there's the "two women battling society" in Thelma and Louise as in Black Narcissus - Ok this is getting a bit tenuous :)
Ridley's son Jake has directed a TV ad for British Telecom (BT) which has quite a few similarities to a well known celestial court
- Prof. Ian Christie
- The main academic champion of Powell & Pressburger. Ian has written many notable books about them and has done many good DVD commentaries and documentaries about them and their work.
In their "Sound of Cinema" season, Ian gave an essay on The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp on BBC Radio 3 on 24 September 2013
Sound Of Cinema: The Essay: Praising Powell & Pressburger
- Bertrand Tavernier
- Michael Powell and Bertrand Tavernier knew each other very well. Tavernier, when he was a critic, interviewed Powell
See Filmmakers on film: Tavernier on A Matter of Life and Death and Interview de Michael Powell par Tavernier en 1968 in Midi-Minuit. Fantastique
Tavernier wrote some reviews as well
See Blimp, Powell, Pressburger et la poèsie déguisée par Bertrand Tavernier in Positif No 253 (April 1982)
Bertrand Tavernier's film Daddie Nostalgie (1990) was dedicated to Powell (mentioned at the beginning and end)
- Akira Kurosawa
- Steve Roberts reports:
Here's the excerpt from Stuart Galbraith's "The Emperor and The Wolf" when two great ships, Kurosawa and Powell, passed in the night:
-- American soldiers frequented the set of Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail, including director-turned-Navy lieutenant commander John Ford, though Kurosawa was not aware of his presence until he formally met Ford in London a dozen years later. Another visitor was British filmmaker Michael Powell. "I don't remember exactly when," Kurosawa recalled, "but it was during postproduction, and I remember that he came to the wardrobe office. I guess Sen-chan [Senkichi Taniguchi] or somebody else brought him and introduced me to him. I showed him the film, and he was impressed by it, and kept saying, 'It's wonderful.' --
Immediately preceding this quote the book recalls Kurosawa's account of an entire nation listening to Emperor Hirohito's first radio speech, and wondering if that entire nation was about to be asked to commit suicide - it was already being talked about as "The Honourable Death Of The Hundred Million". But things turned out a lot better!
Kurosawa also recounts the entire film crew starving and everyone being hauled in to boost a choir scene as the actors were too weak to sing well. Now that's method acting!
The book says the film was completed in September 1945, so I guess it's August or September when Michael was there.
The American authorities occupying Japan promptly banned the film anyway for being "too pro-feudal". Apparently making anything with samurai in it was considered too risky until the Americans left in 1952 - hence the mad rash of such films in Japan in the 1950s.
There are also photos of Michael Powell with Akira Kurosawa and Senkichi Taniguchi at Toho Film Studios in 1952. Although not a lot is known about these trips to Japan.
- Wim Wenders
- Michael Eyers reports:
I went to see Wings of Desire, at the Duke of York's cinema in Brighton yesterday, and having seen it again for the first time in over 10 years the influence of AMOLAD is even more apparent than I had remembered. The Angels in the film exist in a beautifully shot monochrome Berlin until one becomes mortal then it changes to colour. Also an early scene, set in a library, opens with a view of it's ceiling that looks just like the waiting room scene where Bob Coote & Kathleen Byron are seen from below looking down on the records office. I think you can add director Wim Wenders to the famous fans list for this - I don't know if he is on record as a fan but it seems likely. I can't remember much of his other films to say if there is any other direct influences.
- Ray Harryhausen
Special effects guru
- Cites The Thief of Bagdad (1940) as an inspiration, especially Mary Morris as the multi-armed automaton as the inspiration for the multi-armed goddess in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. In fact he tried to cast Mary Morris in a witch role, but was overruled by the front-office as he was casting 'Too many Brits'.
Ray is interviewed along with other special effects experts on the Criterion DVD of The Thief of Bagdad
- Brian De Palma
- In an interview, Brian said: One of my favorite movies is The Red Shoes. It's beautiful. I like beauty, and I like tragedy. I like to cry and be moved by what happens to the characters. I like Puccini operas. This is the kind of stuff that you never see. You can't have a downbeat ending like this anymore. And this has been in art throughout the ages. I guess it's because now you can't sell products with a downbeat ending. You can't be depressed, and go out and buy something. I think that's really the answer to it in a nutshell. You're not going to be using your credit cards if you're sad. (Laughs)
His film Raising Cain (1992) has references to Powell's Peeping Tom (1960).
- Lars von Trier
- His film Breaking the Waves (1996) has too many similarities with I Know Where I'm Going! & The Edge of the World for it to be a mere coincidence :)
And the last scene is very reminiscent of A Canterbury Tale (1944).
- Danny Boyle
- In A Life Less Ordinary (1997), apart from the obvious use of Angels, there are other similarities to AMOLAD.
PaPAS member Steve Debank points out:
As you said there is the celestial factor with angel(s) trying to deceive the protagonist into allowing the completion of their task, but also bear in mind the similarity of bleached white cinematography of the heavenly scenes contrasting with colour whilst on earth. In both films McGregor and Niven are being pursued (one by bounty-hunters, the other for a heavenly recall), and ultimately its their love for the female co-star that saves them - both Niven and McGregor do 'die' figuratively but survive. Whereas in the earlier film it's Livesey and Goring acting as a pivot for and against the romance, in the latter its Lindo/Hunter and Ian Holm. Niven and McGregor both end up under the surgeons knife - though as he's on the run - McGregor has to go to a dentist! Unless I'm mistaken (doubtless) the male leads also both recite poetry to their co-star. There is also a transatlantic element to both films.
The obvious difference is that Life Less is a road movie and was moved from its original Scottish or French setting because they required a more expansive backdrop, whereas AMOLAD goes no further than Livesey's motorbike ride. By Macdonald's own admission the film was heavily influenced by 30s and 40s romantic comedies. I'd be surprised if the films of PnP, Wilder and Capra hadn't some influence on the finished piece.
There's also an RTA [Road Traffic Accident] in both? Did you say something about `clutching' and `straws' :-)
Sadly PNP never had Oasis to call on for a tune either :-)
[Of course the fact of the Producer of A Life Less Ordinary being Emeric's grandson, Andrew Macdonald, might have some influence on this]
- Gene Kelly
- Kelly couldn't convince any of the MGM studio bigwigs to make a movie with a long dance sequence. It was only after arranging 25 screenings of The Red Shoes for various other studio executives that Kelly got a green light. Kelly told Powell that An American in Paris is full of quotes from The Red Shoes.
- Bert Stern
- Director of Jazz on a Summer's Day (1960), the film of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.
Bert quotes The Red Shoes as a major influence and inspiration.
- Peter Hewitt
- In Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991) there are statues of David Niven and Michael Powell in Heaven (a reference to A Matter of Life and Death).
It is reported (thanks James) that Peter Hewitt said AMOLAD was one of his favourite films in an interview in Empire Magazine.
- John Hannah
- John was the star of Peter Howitt's Sliding Doors (1998) and is also a self confessed P&P admirer.
There's an interview with John talking about Blimp.
- Roman Polanski
- Roman once cited >B>Peeping Tom as his all time favourite film.
- Sally Potter
- There is a dedication to Michael Powell at the end of her film Orlando (1992).
In an article she said she knew Powell and mentioned how much he had encouraged her to become a film maker.
- Tilda Swinton
- In a 2001 edition of Entertainment Weekly, Tilda Swinton cites her major influences: "Michael Powell (director of The Red Shoes) "When we were making Orlando, which took about 5 years, Michael became a kind of godfather to Sally Potter & myself. He told us a half century earlier he'd been wanting to make a film of Orlando himself, so he was kind of passing the baton." She goes on to name Billy Wilder or Stanley Donen as her dream collaborators.
In the Telegraph of Feb 14th 2005, Tilda records her favourite films as Un Chant d'Amour, A Matter of Life and Death, School of Rock.
Screened I Know Where I'm Going! at her 2008 film festival in Nairn and then she took it to China, getting it fitted with subtitles in Mandarin.
Tilda attended the screening of the restored version of The Red Shoes at Cannes 2009. I had a lovely chat with her and she was most interested in some of the things we've done, not just for I Know Where I'm Going! but for other Powell & Pressburger films as well.
In the documentary The Invisible Frame by Cynthia Beatt, Tilda cycles around the route of the Berlin Wall. She meets various people and reflects on the wall and the changes since it came down. In one scene she sings the theme song from I Know Where I'm Going!.
- Mark Cousins
- Mark directed the documentary I Know Where I'm Going! Revisited on the Criterion DVD of I Know Where I'm Going!
Mark attended the screening of the restored version of The Red Shoes at Cannes 2009.
- Sam Mendes
- In the DVD commentary of Road to Perdition (2002), Sam says he's paying a homage to Michael Powell & Peeping Tom in the scene where Jude Law as McGuire is developing his photos of the man he's just asphyxiated.
- Stacey Kent
- American jazz singer & broadcaster Stacey Kent says she chose to live in the UK because of the P&P films. She talked about her love of the films (especially I Know Where I'm Going!) to Humphrey Carpenter with assistance from Ian Christie in the series Great Lives on BBC Radio 4.
- Bruce Weber
American photographer & filmmaker
- The July 2002 NFT programme reveals another celebrity Archers fan: A short season "Bruce Weber's Choice" features I Know Where I'm Going!No other British director had Powell's gift for evoking the atmosphere of a setting, and the rugged Western Isles are a vital force in this lyrical love story.
- David Mamet
- In an article in The Guardian of Friday March 21, 2003 titled "Seeing and believing", David Mamet confesses to his admiration of Roger Livesey in Blimp (Last paragraph: "The film, by Pressburger and Powell, is my favourite.").
In an interview in austin360.com of Sunday, February 17, 2008, David Mamet was asked which filmmakers he admires. He said:
"I don't want to talk too much about filmmakers today, because I don't want to make invidious comparisons. I will say I'm a big fan of Powell and Pressburger. Love their movies. And I love Michael Curtiz. I just adore Yankee Doodle Dandy."
- Mrs Mamet (Rebecca Pidgeon)
Actress: Winslow Boy, State and Main etc.
- In an article in The Guardian of Friday September 5th 2003, David Mamet reveals that his wife's favourite film is I Know Where I'm Going! It must be fun in the Mamet house with them debating which was Roger Livesey's best role :)
- Kate Bush
- Wrote an album called The Red Shoes inspired by and based (loosely) on the 1948 film. She later made The Line, the Cross and the Curve (1993) which expands her ideas about it further.
Bush contacted Powell shortly before he died, "to see whether he'd be interested in working with me. He was the most charming man, so charming. He wanted to hear my music, so I sent him some cassettes and we exchanged letters occasionally, and I got a chance to meet him not so long before he died. He left a really strong impression on me, as much as a person as for his work. He was just one of those very special spirits, almost magical in a way. Left me with a big influence." (Time Out Nov. 1993)
Q: Who is the Douglas Fairbanks character in 'Moments Of Pleasure'?
A: "Ah... In a lot of ways that song, er.. well it's going back to that thing of paying homage to people who aren't with us any more. I was very lucky to get to meet Michael (Powell, the film-maker who directed the original The Red Shoes) in New York before he died, and he and his wife were extremely kind. I'd had few conversations with him and I'd been dying to meet him. As we came out of the lift, he was standing outside with his walking stick and he was pretending to be someone like Douglas Fairbanks. He was completely adorable and just the most beautiful spirit, and it was a very profound experience for me. It had quite an inspirational effect on a couple of the songs." (VOX Magazine Nov. 1993)
- Jarvis Cocker and Pulp
- Made a "Help the Aged" video with Cocker ascending the "Stairway to Heaven" in a stairlift.
Confirmed when he gave an interview to the Evening Standard (12 July 2007) where he said:...
And Jarvis is even dusting off some of his own art-college films for viewing - "the stuff that isn't too bad, only short little-things.
My work would never measure up to my cinematic influences like [Michael] Powell and [Emeric] Pressburger".
- Stephen Fry
- Has "come out" as a fan of AMOLAD (at least). He said it "... has a quality of unrepentant Englishness, which is as far as you get from twee middle-classness"
Stephen is also in the documentary on the Carlton DVD of Blimp.
Film-makers on film: Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry talks to Sarah Donaldson about Powell and Pressburger's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
- Sir Paul Getty
- The billionaire and philanthropist was an American Anglophile. Such was his love of British films that he made many donations to the BFI. The British Film Institute received £20m which helped finance the transfer of old British films from perishable nitrate stock to a modern medium at the BFI's Conservation Centre in Berkhamsted. He also helped in the purchase of the institute's headquarters at Stephen Street in London and, in recent years, assisted in the creation of the London Imax Cinema and the Museum of the Moving Image.
It is not known for certain (yet) but it is suspected it was his donations that enabled the preservation and restoration of many P&P titles.
See also obituary pages.
- Alan Bennett
- In an extract from his diaries Alan talks about AMOLAD and shows a knowledge of other P&P films.
In an interview in the Daily Telegraph he says "But back then, films were just entertainment," Bennett insists. "The first time we thought of them as anything cultural or special was at the end of the war with A Canterbury Tale (1944) and A Matter of Life and Death, which was the first Royal Film Performance. (Both films were from the Powell-Pressburger team.) Olivier's Henry V (1950), I did think that was magical as a child."
- Eiko Ishioka
- One of the premiere visual artists of the 20th century. Best known as the Academy Award winner for costume design for Bram Stoker's Dracula, Eiko's provocative and shockingly beautiful vision can be seen in The Cell, starring Jennifer Lopez.
In an interview, Eiko was asked:
Is there any project that you wish to do or particular person you wish to work with?
and she answered
If I had the opportunity to direct and design films like The Red Shoes and Kwaidan, I'd be very interested.
- Joe Ahearne
- Producer/director of This Life (1996) and writer/director of Ultraviolet (1998) claims P&P as an influence. "Particularly Black Narcissus - the sexiest of their movies".
- Professor Victor Burgin (Goldsmith College, London)
- The Millard Professor of Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, University of London, Victor produced an installation that made good use of sequences from A Canterbury Tale.
- Chris Weitz
Director of American Pie (1999) and About a Boy (2002)
- In an interview with Jason Solomons in The Observer on Sunday August 11, 2002, "Earlier this year, I talked to American director Chris Weitz. He earnestly said his influences were [Kenji] Mizugochi, Kurosawa, Powell and Pressburger. And what has he made? About a Boy."
- Courtney Love
- Tipu reports:
I would never have guessed that Kurt ('Nirvana') Cobain's widow, Courtney Love, was a PnP fan, but a recent interview of hers in Entertainment Weekly (March 29 2002) proves otherwise. It says"Its the day after the (Vanilla) Sky premier. Love is sitting in her private screening room, her knees pulled back under her slip dress, watching the 1948 classic The Red Shoes, one of her favorite films. 'Its a metaphor for fame & addiction,' Love says. 'She puts on the red shoes & she can't stop dancing. She dances until she dies.'"Elsewhere in the interview, Ms. Love says she was desperate for the role of Satime in Moulin Rouge & had extended discussions with Baz Luhrmann about it. Maybe that's how she got hold of the movie.
BTW, she also claims to be a grand-niece of Douglas Fairbanks Sr., so (thru the original ToB) that may be another (totally trivial) PnP connection:-)
Alan Head responded:
Definitely a Courtney Love movie - its a goth classic, where do you think Robert Smith of The Cure got the idea for his fright-wig hairstyle? Pure Shoemaker. Mix in the lurid subject matter and the fact that at the end of the ballet Moira has turned into a grunge ballerina and you can see why she loves it. Seem to remember her wearing a tatty ballerina dress at a Hole gig I saw in the pre Kurt days - and distressed lace was always a favourite with the punks...
of The Cure
I know when I was a goth/punk in my younger days I remember girls wearing Sister Ruth-esque eye makeup so perhaps PnP have always had an influence on the alternative scene...
ex punk-goth, now just a hairy old hippy :-)
- Manolo Blahnik
- Colin Higgins reports:
Sunday evening [19th Jan 2003] C4 news had a section on Manolo Blahnik, shoe guru. He picked his favourites from a huge collection one of which had a target on the front. He claimed it was a tribute to Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell (his arrangement) and their marvellous Archers logo. Manolo trained as a theatre designer.
Manolo Blahnik was also asked to name and describe his favourite film in Harper's Bazaar (June 2006) and he chose Deborah Kerr in Black Narciussus.
- Aki Kaurismäki
- Dedicated his film I Hired a Contract Killer (1990) "to the memory of Michael Powell". Reported in an interview in The Independent as having developed his love of British cinema by "watching old Alec Guinness comedies or Powell and Pressburger movies on TV."
- Julien Temple
- Declared his admiration of P&P when I met him.
His film Pandaemonium (2000) contains much Powellian imagery.
- Wash Westmoreland
Director of The Fluffer (2001) and others
- Reported in The Independent 25 Jan 2002:
Best scene of all time:
(Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1947)
This film is about nuns living in the Himalayas. It can seem like a very Sunday school tale about nuns trying to deal with the natives, but ultimately it's concerned with the consequences of choosing lifestyles that thwart natural feelings and desire. So, even though it's rated U, it contains one of the most sensual and erotic scenes ever. Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron, above), is going insane because of desiring a man. The scene shows her taking out a lipstick and going to the mirror to put it on, and making her lips burning red. It's this incredibly charged act of defiance of everything she's expected to be. It seems like the lipstick is the most radical object that she could possess, and putting it on is a transcendent throwing off of her chains. Oscar Wilde said that disobedience is man's original virtue. It may seem that Sister Ruth is punished for her flagrant sexuality (she goes mad and dies, frightened over a cliff edge by a "pure nun", represented by Deborah Kerr). But it's her moment of triumph that you remember.
- Bob Holness
- In an article in the Daily Mirror of 1 Jul 1997
Favourite film: The 1946 British stunner A Matter of Life and Death by the Archers (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger).
- Tom Gray
- In an article in The Times of 6 Mar 2004
What's not to like
Tom Gray, of Gomez, on the films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
The first Powell and Pressburger film I saw was A Matter of Life and Death. I was in my teens and I remember sitting at home on a Sunday afternoon, watching this blazing aeroplane hurtling into oblivion, while its doomed British pilot, Peter Carter (David Niven), talks to an American servicewoman on his radio. He jumps, and wakes up in the surf, unhurt. There.s been a mistake in Heaven. He should have died. When he is found by a heavenly messenger, he is put on trial to determine whether or not he deserves a second chance on earth.
- Sarah Polley
Canadian actress and director
- Chelsea Spear reports:
in the latest issue of Jane magazine, Dawn of the Dead star Sarah Polley mentions that her favourite horror movie is Peeping Tom. (For those not in the know, Sarah Polley is an amazing Canadian actress who has given some great performances in low-budget Canadian movies and is on her way to becoming the best thing about a lot of bad American movies...like Dawn of the Dead, in fact.)
- Bridget Fonda
- Jenny Lerew reports:
Several years ago the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (which runs film programmes) had a P&P festival. At a screening of Gone To Earth (UK version!!!!), we were loitering in the small lobby, looking at the several vintage one-sheets on display, and I realized I was next to Bridget Fonda and her then-partner, Eric Stoltz. Cool.
- Lorna Cook
- Jenny Lerew reports:
Although not "famous", a director I work with, Lorna Cook (her husband just won his 3rd Oscar for The Lord of the Rings, btw, in effects) - she directed the animated film Spirit, Stallion of the Cimarron for this company, Dreamworks - saw my 1-sheet on the AMOLAD re-release in my office and just about fainted-she had to have one, as it's her favorite movie, too. You never know where you'll run into them. :)
- Wayne Shorter
- Malcolm Pratt reports:
There seems to be another celebrity to add to the list of famous P&P enthusiasts, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, who was part of the jazz group Weather Report. According to a reviewer of The Red Shoes on the IMDb, Shorter mentioned in the liner notes to the Weather Report album Tail Spinnin' that he had seen The Red Shoes many times.
Another website (translated somewhat loosely from French to English) makes mention (if I haven't lost it in translation) of Shorter's having watched The Red Shoes 70 times:
I'm not familiar w/Weather Report or Wayne Shorter. If anyone on the list knows of them, or by chance has the album Tail Spinnin', perhaps they could confirm this.
- Wes Anderson
- Chelsea Spear reports:
Wes Anderson -- the director of Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums -- is also a fan of Powell and Pressburger. In the commentary for The Royal Tenenbaums he talks about how the title card was inspired by The Red Shoes.
Steve: And the film does open saying "Royal Tenenbaum bought the house on Archer Avenue in the winter of his 35th year".
Interviewed at Cannes, 2012, where he presented "Moonrise Kingdom", Wes said:
"For many years some of the movies that have most inspired me especially in a visual way are the Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger films," he said. "...so much of that work is about making these visual...quite artificial films and there's something very exciting about what they've made that's in front of the camera, and you know the 'Red Shoes' in particular is the subject matter too, but you know one of my favorites is 'The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp'...and also 'Black Narcissus'; [it's] about a woman in the Himalayas and they did it all on a soundstage."
Interviewed about his film Moonrise Kingdom Wes managed to get in a few more P&P references:
As he did with "The Royal Tenenbaums," "Rushmore" and "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou," Anderson blends realism with the look of theatrical productions. It is a style that he learned as a child in Dallas, watching highly theatrical films by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger such as The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus.
"Part of what I love about them are that they are these wonderful stories, wonderful characters," Anderson said. "They are very moving and very vivid in all sorts of ways, but part of what I love is that they were these artisans who were creating something for us that is very related to theater. Black Narcissus, for example, is set in the Himalayas, but it was a movie that was made at Pinewood (Studios) entirely. All the mountain ranges were painted on glass.
"The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is maybe my favorite of all their films," he said. "It has beautiful sets, interiors and exteriors that were filmed indoors, and you can sense that, but they are extremely detailed. They are like paintings. The Red Shoes is a ballet - the whole movie is. That is where I come from".
- Simon Bates
- Andrew Smaje reports:
You'll be delighted/horrifed to know that Simon Bates (yes, the DJ who inflicted - sorry, invented - Our Tune) has just been recommending PnP to Classic FM listeners. He does a Classic FM at the Movies show every Saturday on which the occasional item of interest appears amidst the Titanic and Matrix medleys. He's been doing a D-Day special which somehow managed to include part of the AMOLAD score. He ran through a list of essential PnP, including A Canterbury Tale, which doesn't always appear on lists by people who aren't pretty serious in their admiration.
He also thoroughly recommended 'the brand new release' of Small Back Room - so he really is up-to-date.
- Lex Shrapnel
- Mark Fuller reports:
In The Times' tv and film mag. today (24th July 2004) the splendidly-named Lex Shrapnel (John Tracy in the new Thunderbirds film) selects Col. Blimp as one of his favourite films... one of the reasons given is that it stars his Granny, Deborah Kerr.
Note: Lex Shrapnel is the son of actor John Shrapnel and Deborah Kerr's daughter Francesca.
- Su Friedrich
- Chelsea Spear reports:
Whilst reading the book "Film Fatales", I came across a bio of filmmaker Su Friedrich and a description of her film Damned if You Don't (1987), which the author describes as "The story of a novice nun who falls in love with a lesbian... The film offers a starling deconstruction of Michael Powell's 1946 classic Black Narcissus. Rather than pay the exorbitant costs of leasing footage from the Powell film, Friedrich chose to use distorted footage of the film playing on a television set" (Redding and Brownworth, 46).
There's a script here: http://www.sufriedrich.com/DDbest.html
I'm very curious to see this now, based on both the Powell connection and on the strength of Friedrich's other work -- Sink or Swim is one of the most compelling experimental documentaries I've seen. Has anyone seen this?
- Alice Hoffman
- I was listening to BBC World Service and their excellent programme "The Word" was on. Amongst the people interviewed was Alice Hoffman, author of "Practical Magic" and various other fine works. Alice was talking about how she seemed to be writing through series of works based on different colours. She had her "blue period" and now, since seeing The Red Shoes, she seems to be working through a red phase. Her latest novel is called Blackbird House but has a pair of red shoes (or lace up boots) on the cover. She said how the film reminded her of "every woman's struggle between home & family or an artistic life" and then she added how every woman has a pair of red shoes somewhere in her closet and has to decide if she dares put them on. I think she was speaking metaphorically :)
- John Waters
- Lisle Foote reports:
I saw John Waters' new film, A Dirty Shame (2004) today, and I was surprised by the film that Selma Blair watches in it. It's The Red Shoes. She plays an exotic dancer with Russ Meyer star proportions. I'm guessing that Blair is trying to learn and bring more artistry to her oeuvre, but later in the film I couldn't detect any ballet influence in her dancing. So Waters is probably just another PnP fan.
- Eddie Berg
Creator of Liverpool's visual arts centre
Artistic Director of the proposed National Centre for Moving Image
- Malcolm Pratt reports:
There's an online article in the Liverpool Daily Post for today about a gentleman named Eddie Berg which includes his 5 favorite films. The rather lengthy link is here.
In the article Eddie lists his 5 favourite films. Number 2 is:
A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH
"For me, the best British film ever made. An extraordinary timeless fantasy directed by Michael Powell and Hungarian emigre Emeric Pressburger."
- Martin Freeman
- Louise Lamont reports:
Martin Freeman reveals in a questionnaire at the back of the Love Actually companion book (I was waiting for someone, in a bookshop, I did not buy the book) that his most romantic film of all time is none other than AMOLAD. (Freeman played the naked stand-in in Love Actually; also in The Office).
- Tony Booth
- Lady Ivry Freyberg reports:
From the Evening Standard magazine 14th January, 2005
The father-in-law of ex Prime Minister Tony Blair, Tony Booth, 73, now lives in County Cavan in Ireland with his fourth wife, Stephanie. Born in Liverpool, he has been a political activist and an actor best known for playing Alf Garnett's daughter's warring boyfriend in the Sixties TV comedy Till Death Us Do Part. "My wife's an excellent cook and I only cook if I have to," he says. "It'll be a big pan of something like a stew. If we eat in front of the telly we'll have picnic food."
Who's on the sofa? My wife Steph and our cats: Cassie, Oscar, Finbar and Mikey.
What's on the menu? We'll have a nice bread with a selection of cheese, smoked salmon, pâté, olives, and other dips. I love home-made hummus and guacomole. My favourite cheese is Roquefort.
Pudding? Steph's home-made fruit cake with Cornish ice-cream.
And to drink? Mineral water.
What's on the box? World Cinema. It's a channel on Sky which shows the best films ever made such as La Reine Margot and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. You should watch it sometime, it's absolutely brilliant.
Tony Booth has just made a short film for TV called A Dog's Life, to be shown later this year, and has a guest role in Doctors on BBC1.
For our friends across the pond, Till Death Us Do Part was the series that All in the Family was based on.
Tony Booth is the father of Cherie Booth, the wife of the current Prime Minister, Tony Blair.
- Timothy Spall
- Spoke for AMOLAD on the "100 Greatest Tearjerkers" on Channel 4 on Feb 13th, 2005. Shamefully they only put AMOLAD at No. 86.
Timothy also described AMOLAD as "The film that changed my life" in an interview in The Observer
- Kenneth Branagh
Actor, Director etc. etc.
- In the Telegraph of Feb 14th 2005, Kenneth records his favourite films as Black Narcissus, Les Enfants du paradis, Manhattan.
- Rufus Sewell
- In the Telegraph of Feb 14th 2005, Rufus records his favourite films as A Matter of Life and Death, Being There, Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
- John Lowrie Morrison
Scottish contemporary artist
- Terry Hanstock reports:
Aberdeen Evening Express
February 19, 2005
Scottish contemporary artist John Lowrie Morrison is well on the way to becoming one of Britain's best known and loved artists. His paintings of the west coast are full of colour and life - and highly collectable.
MY FIRST MOVIE I Know Where I'm Going. A film by Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger. This film made a huge impression on me at age seven. It is still my favourite film and made such an impression I became a film buff. Also the work of the film's cinematographer Erwin Hillier has influenced my painting in the last 10 years, particularly his use of 'dark and light'. I have transformed this into 'dark and colour'.
- John Maybury
- Terry Hanstock reports:
"The Jacket" Director John Maybury Speaks His Mind
Speaking in front of a group of reporters in support of the release of The Jacket, Maybury didn't hold anything back. Prepare for spoilers...
INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR JOHN MAYBURY:
Q: What are your favorite time travel stories?
JM: I don't have any. No. This isn't a time travel movie.
Q: It has time travel in it.
JM: No, you must have misunderstood it. He dies in Iraq and his life flashes before his eyes.
Q: But if the media quotes you on that, it will give your whole movie away.
JM: I don't give a s**t. I don't want anyone to make any money out of this. No, my favorite time travel movie I suppose is A Matter of Life and Death" by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. But it's not really time travel. It's about someone dying - David Niven dies in a plane crash and then someone from the 18th century from heaven comes back and rescues him.
Q: That's also titled Stairway to Heaven, right?
JM: Yeah, exactly. It's A Matter of Life and Death in England.
- Margaret Atwood
- Doc M reports:
Lady Oracle (Virago, ISBN 0-86068-303-6) is a 1976 novel about the adventures and misadventures of Joan, an obese, red-haired Canadian who slims down and becomes an author of costume gothics/bodicerippers, but then fakes her own death and goes to Italy...
One of Joan's few pleasures in girlhood is going to the cinema with her kind Aunt Lou, although her mother says movies are "vulgar". One has to bear in mind, as Joan identifies with Vicki, her large size at this time, and the fact that when younger, she had been humiliated by her dance teacher who made her dress and dance as a mothball in the class's butterfly ballet...
"I suffered along with sweet, patient June Allyson as she lived through the death of Glenn Miller; I ate three boxes of popcorn while Judy Garland tried to cope with an alcoholic husband, and five Mars Bars while Eleanor Parker, playing a crippled opera singer, groped her mournful way through 'Interrupted Melody'. But the one I liked best was The Red Shoes, with Moira Shearer as a ballet dancer torn between her career and her husband. I adored her: not only did she have red hair and an entrancing pair of red satin slippers to match, she also had beautiful costumes, and she suffered more than anyone. I munched faster and faster as she became more and more entangled in her dilemma - I wanted those things too, I wanted to dance and be married to a handsome orchestra conductor, both at once - and when she finally threw herself in front of a train I let out a bellowing snort that made people three rows ahead turn around indignantly. Aunt Lou took me to see it four times."
There are a couple of other references too:
p. 216 - as Joan is reflecting on her marriage to Arthur, a Marxist activist she met in the '60s, who does not know about her writing:
"And yet, as time went by, I began to feel something was missing. Perhaps, I thought, I had no soul; I just drifted around, singing vaguely, like the Little Mermaid in the Andersen fairy tale. In order to get a soul you had to suffer, you had to give something up; or was that to get legs and feet? I couldn't remember. She'd become a dancer, though, with no tongue. Then there was Moira Shearer, in The Red Shoes. Neither of them had been able to please the handsome prince; both of them had died. I was doing fairly well by comparison. Their mistake had been to go public, whereas I did my dancing behind closed doors. It was safer, but..."
p. 335 - Joan, hiding out in Italy after faking her own death, realises she has cut her feet on some broken glass (overtones of the mermaid again, too):
"The real red shoes, the feet punished for dancing. You could dance, or you could have the love of a good man. But you were afraid to dance, because you had this unnatural fear that if you danced they'd cut your feet off so you wouldn't be able to dance. The good man went away too, because you wanted to dance.
But I chose the love, I wanted the good man; why wasn't that the right choice? I was never a dancing girl anyway. A bear in an arena only appears to dance, really it's on its hind legs trying to avoid the arrows."
Doc M also found that there's a biography covering Margaret Atwood's early years -- The Red Shoes: Margaret Atwood Starting Out, by Rosemary Sullivan: "In the 1940s film The Red Shoes, a beautiful ballerina commits suicide when she fails to satisfy one man, who wants her to devote her entire life to her art, and another, who loves her but subjugates her to become his muse and inspiration. Margaret Atwood remembers being devastated by this movie as a young girl, but unlike many of her contemporaries, she came to reject its underlying message that a woman must choose between art and love."
- Colin Vaines
Executive Vice-President of Miramax
- Don Henson reports:
I've just been reading 'British film magazine' (June 2005). There's an article by Colin Vaines, Executive Vice-President of Miramax (page 47)."My own taste was for fantasy films - never was drawn to social realism. When I was ten, I saw A Matter of Life and Death, and was gobsmacked by it. That was the film which made me want to make movies."Later on, taking about his DVD collection -"But all my top favourite movies are there - The Wild Bunch, Once upon a Time in the West, every Powell and Pressburger that're available ..."Don
- Paul Cornell
- Richard Layne reports:
Doctor Who fans will be interested to learn that Paul Cornell, who wrote the last but one episode "Father's Day", lists A Matter of Life and Death as one of his favourite films.
So the fact that the episode involved a man who cheats death and gets to spend a few extra hours with the women he loves may not be a coincidence. Obviously if the monsters had been very camp Frenchmen it would have been better.
Nicky smith adds:
In both AMOLAD and "Father's Day", a Doctor has to die before things are sorted out.
- Paul McGann
- I am told that Paul McGann is also a P&P fan and that in a forthcoming feature ("A Voice From Afar") he and director/producer Barry Bliss want to pay homage to P&P.
- David Mitchell
- Pete McGill reports:
Saturday Telegraph, 9th July, Arts & Books Section Page 18:
"Cultural Baggage" interviews writer David Mitchell, who claims 'The Red Shoes' as his favourite film: "...because of its scale, bravery and bravura. It's based on a story about ballet by Hans Christian Andersen. I saw the film years ago and scenes from it still hold me."
- Gary Kemp
- Andrew Smaje reports:
Yes, children of the 80's, it's Gary Kemp.
In today's (22nd July 2005) Independent (the Arts & Book Reviews section), the Cultural Life section asks a well-known person about their book, music, film and theatre habits. Gary Kemp pins his colours to the mast (well, one colour anyway) in his comments about film:
"I'm not as big a film fan as I am a theatre fan. I watch film because I love stories, but I prefer theatre because of the way you are emotionally involved as an audience [...] But one of my favourite films ever is Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Red Shoes, made in the late 1940s [sic]. It's the story of a ballet comapny, and the acting has a sort of heightened stylisation about it, which I guess I like because I like theatre."
For the record, Gary is currently reading Pepys's diaries, listening to Gavin DeGraw, and seeing David Threlfall in Someone Who'll Watch Over Me.
- Ken Russell
- In a programme on BBC Radio 4 in Michael Powell's centenary year, Ken said how he played hookey from his dance school to be one of the first to see The Red Shoes. Since then he has loved and been influenced by many of the P&P films.
Ken was also very complimentary about P&P and said how much he liked their work in his book of anecdotes and essays on British films, "Fire over England".
Came out as a fan of Powell & Pressburger and particularly of The Red Shoes with an article in The Times titled How The Red Shoes prolonged my pointe-less career.
... I'm on a scholarship with the International Ballet ... The curtains part on the first performance at the Carlton cinema on the Haymarket of The Red Shoes, about which I know nothing except that the duo Powell and Pressburger have written, produced and directed it, which is enough to recommend it.
- Anand Tucker
- Richard Layne reports:
Went to see Shopgirl at the London Film Festival last night.
Director Anand Tucker revealed afterwards that, to get over to the cast and crew the feel he wanted for the film, he made them all watch his favourite film, A Matter of Life and Death, along with "every Douglas Sirk film".
Tucker of Shopgirl fame was quoted on his admiration for MP before on this list. I saw this recently on an article by him in the Landmark FLM magazine's Fall 2005 issue (I am catching up on my reading :-)): "I have two all-time director heroes: Michael Powell and Jacques Tourneur." The full article is at www.movienet.com/shopgirl.html.
Pete McGill adds:
Just returned from a viewing of And When Did You Last See Your Father?, and was struck by the opening sequence which panned across a swirling universe with the voice of Jim Broadbent saying, "Big, isn't it?" or something similar - no rewind in the cinema - and so obviously homage to AMOLAD.
Barbara Siek adds:
If you want it for the website, here's the exact quote from Anand Tucker, Director's Commentary, "When Did You Last See Your Father?":
"Powell and Pressburger are my two favourite filmmakers and all those great movies like The Red Shoes and A Matter of Life and Death."
- D.A. Pennebaker
- Mark Fuller reports:
His list of "favourite films" in a Criterion Newsletter includes 3 P&P titles:
The Red Shoes (1948)
I Know Where I'm Going! (1945)
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
- Guy Maddin
- Samuel Bréan tells us:
I'd like to add an entry: Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin, who made Dracula, Pages from a Virgin's Diary (2002). This is a silent film adapted from ballet inspired by Bram Stoker's book, and it's terrific, in my opinion; one of the author's best, on a par with his short Heart of the World (2000) and his installation-derived 10-part Cowards Bend the Knee (2003). Anyway, one of the less peculiar things about the project is that Maddin had never read the novel before and doesn't like dance films. Although in a couple of interviews, he said:
"I can't even watch dance films. And oh, I've tried. The one I like the most is Michael Powell's Tales of Hoffman (1953), though I still can't watch more than 20 or 30 minutes of it at the time." (Cinema Scope #10, March 2002)
"One of the reasons I kept refusing the job to direct Dracula, was that I didn't enjoy many dance films, only Michael Powell's films. I enjoyed Tales of Hoffman and The Red Shoes but The Red Shoes isn't really a dance film, it just has some dance in it." (Interview on the Dracula French DVD)
- Phill Jupitus
- Michael Lofthouse tells us:
Browsing the magazines in Borders the other night I read in Uncut DVD that Phill Jupitus is another PnP fan. Asked to list his favourite DVDs he includes AMOLAD adding that if Sue Lawley ever asks him to be on Desert Island Discs then his luxury item will be a tv, DVD player and a copy of AMOLAD.
Interviewed in the BBC series "British Film Forever", Phill mentioned the frisson of pleasure he gets on seeing the Archers logo at the beginning of a film.
- Franz Ferdinand
Garage / Indie Band; 2005 Brit Awards winners
- Michael Eyers tells us:
I was googling and happened upon this article (in the Telegraph) about the band Franz Ferdinand:
'Ever keen to widen their pool of references, the video for their new single, Matinee, is inspired by Powell and Pressburger's film A Matter of Life and Death. With their talk of Stravinsky and Bulgakov and Fibonacci and Hitchcock and the Smiths, they'll move your feet and, if you want, your brain'
'Just because these things influence you, doesn't mean that your work - the music - has to be pretentious or inaccessible in any sort of way,' Kapranos declares with characteristic vigour. 'In fact, quite the opposite. Cinema, which is influenced by every single part of life, is direct and reaches you immediately. And writing - the best writing is complex ideas communicated concisely.'
Also, their video for "Walk Away" has many Peeing Tom moments. e.g. a close up of an opening eye, a bedroom containing period film projectors and open reel tape recorders and a film studio with spotlights being switched on.
- Neil LaBute
- Declared in his list of Top Ten Criterion DVDs
9. Black Narcissus. The most purely beautiful film I can think of and done up in a pristine transfer here; the fact that the film was shot at Shepperton Studios, in England, actually blows the mind. The acting is impeccable, and the fevered colors and close-ups are as close to a cinematic wet dream as I ever need to have. Pressburger & Powell in the throes of a most singular cinematic vision.
He commented on the trailer, and on the film in general, in Trailers from Hell
At Cannes 2011 Neil announced that he was going fo be filming Agatha Christie's "The Crooked House" and name-checked P&P again when describinng the 1940s films that he liked. The Guardian, Sunday 15 May 2011
- Mike Patton
- Named his band and their album after Michael Powell's film Peeping Tom
- David Parker
- Contestant on Mastermind (UK, BBC) in 2006 who scored, as the question master put it, "a stonking 29 points" with his specialist round on Powell and Pressburger.
Details about the competition and the questions he was asked.
- Ken Jennings
- Contestant on Jeopardy (US TV) who had a winning streak of 74 games in 2004.
In his blog he lists AMOLAD as the best ever film never released on DVD in the States.
1. A Matter of Life and Death (1946). This is the Powell-Pressburger afterlife fantasy that was retitled Stairway to Heaven for American audiences. I can't even start to tell you all the things I love about this movie. Roger Livesey's camera oscura, the goat boy, the frozen ping-pong ball, the matte paintings of black-and- white "heaven". But I can guarantee you'll be hooked from the start, since it has probably the best first scene in cinema history.
- Amanda Vickery
- Reader in Modern British Women's History at Royal Holloway College, University of London. Amanda was the guest on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday Review on 16th September 2006 where she spoke about her favourite film, I Know Where I'm Going!
- J.G. Ballard
- Wrote an article for The Guardian (July 23, 2006) about how he used to skip classes to watch P&P films and how they taught him all he needed to know about the art of storytelling.
- Mark Kermode
- Wrote an article in The Observer (Sept 24, 2006) where, after a complaint about the quality of what is offered as "film" nowadays, he said: "I became a film critic because I love films - films such as Powell and Pressburger's A Matter of Life and Death, Kaneto Shindo 's Onibaba, Disney's Mary Poppins and Ken Russell's The Devils."
On the publication of his autobiography "It's Only A Movie" he lists A Matter Of Life And Death among his all time top 10 films.
In an interview in the Bradford Telegraph & Argus Mark was asked:
Given time is so limited, what if the world was going to end in four hours? What one film would he watch? "A Matter Of Life And Death," he says without hesitation. "I could watch it twice in four hours. Actually, though, I'd probably watch it once and watch Peeping Tom as well. Light and dark. That's what film's all about."
- Linda Ruth Williams
Professor in Film Studies at Southampton University
- Interviewed in The Guardian she declared that A Matter Of Life And Death as her favourite film of all time saying "I find it very hard to lecture on it without bursting into tears".
Married to critic Mark Kermode with two children
- Guy Maddin
- In the Oct '06 Criterion Newsletter, Guy lists his top ten films (on Criterion) which includes:
8. Black Narcissus (Michael Powell)
A bunch of nuns move into a wind-addled old pleasure dome in the Himalayas and have trouble remembering their vows. The air is set aquivering by the most innocuous male approach to their world.even Sabu seems to shake their virginal resolve. And even I have trouble keeping my priest's collar straight as the unspoken pressures build up to boiler-breaking levels. Technicolor at its most eye-popping!"
- Kim Newman
Critic & Author
- In an article in Film Extremes No.1 , Kim reveals his choice of the greatest of extreme film-makers to be Michael Powell.
When asked to select his Top 10 Criterion titles Kim started his list with The Tales of Hoffmann
- Bill Forsyth
- Bill said, of his film Local Hero:
"I saw it along the lines of a Scottish Beverly Hillbillies -- what would happen to a small community when it suddenly became immensely rich -- that was the germ of the idea and the story built itself from there. It seemed to contain a similar theme to Brigadoon (1954), which also involved some Americans coming over to Scotland, becoming part of a small community, being changed by the experience and affecting the place in their own way. I feel close in spirit to the Powell and Pressburger feeling, the idea of trying to present a cosmic viewpoint to people, but through the most ordinary things. And because both this film and I Know Where I'm Going! (1945) are set in Scotland, I've felt from the beginning that we're walking the same... treading the same water."
-- from Local Hero: The Making of the Film, Alan Hunter and Mark Astaire (1983)
- James Robertson
- Asked to name his favourite film, after various Hitchcock films he named I Know Where I'm Going!, saying:
"But another perennial favourite is the 1945 classic I Know Where I'm Going! Set in the Hebrides, it has the charm and humour of Whisky Galore! but it also has that extra Powell and Pressburger magic. A young Englishwoman played by Wendy Hiller who apparently knows exactly what she wants from life sets out to marry a rich businessman who has rented the isle of Kiloran for the season. But bad weather prevents her getting there, and while waiting impatiently for it to improve she falls under the spell of the local laird, who is himself emotionally handicapped by an ancient curse on his family. The film challenges materialism and selfishness in its depiction of a poor but fundamentally contented rural community. The climax is a fantastic storm scene at the Corryvreckan whirlpool but there are many great moments throughout its 90 minutes.
-- from Scotland on Sunday Jan 14, 2007
- Stephen Sondheim
- His childhood favourite films include Stairway to Heaven (A Matter of Life and Death). As mentioned in an interview in the New York Times.
- Peter Kay
- Michael Eyers reports:
My Mother is currently reading 'The Sound Of Laughter', by comedian Peter Kay, and called my attention to a passage about his time as an altar boy.
"I like to think that by serving the altar I've more than done my bit towards securing my place in heaven. And what a vision heaven is too. Millions of people queuing in single file up an endless white marble staircase, there's plenty of mist and tireless angels fly to and fro on administration duties. If you've ever seen the film A Matter Of Life And Death with David Niven then you'll know what I'm on about. And if you've never seen that film then you've certainly missed a treat. Take a tip from me and keep a look out for it. They usually show it in the afternoon before Channel 4 racing".
- Susan Cooper
- Matthew Barker reports:
I am currently reading a short biography by Nina Mikkelsen of the children's writer Susan Cooper who wrote the Dark is Rising sequence (or should that be pentalology?). In writing about Susan's grandfather (the model for Merriman in the novels), the following is mentioned:
"He [Susan's grandfather] introduced Susan to his favourite novelists and took her to see a World War II film he particularly liked, A Matter of Life and Death, made by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, in 1946 (called Stairway to Heaven in the United States), which she has said became the strongest influence on her writing of anything she ever saw or read".
- Selina Blow
- Richard Layne reports:
Fashion designer Selina Blow professes her love for Black Narcissus in an interview in The Daily Telegraph
- Joe Wright
- Simon Turner reports:
Joe Wright, the director of Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley. About half an hour through the director's commentary he states his admiration for the shot in Black Narcissus where Kathleen Byron's red dress bursts into frame. Wright has a red uniform rise into shot.
Steve Wolage told us on 8 September 2012:
I know that the director Joe Wright is already on your famous fans list. But I really like this quote in last weeks Observer, regarding his decision to make Anna Karenina in the studio rather than on location:
The "big idea" he came up with is that it's almost all set in a theatre. One huge, unfolding stage, part doll's house, part ballroom. Characters swoosh from one set to another, smoothly transitioning mood and atmosphere. "I've always loved the films of Powell and Pressburger," Joe tells me. "They were able to have this heightened sense of dream, yet the drama was always very urgent and real. I always thought Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York was genius, too, even though I'm not sure I fully understood it. That doesn't matter . it was a poem. It's OK if something doesn't quite make logical sense. That's what films can do. They're fantasy."
In an interview in the Huffington Post about his new film Anna Karenina (2012) [based on Tolstoy's original story and using Tom Stoppard's screenplay], Joe was asked:
HP: It almost feels like a musical at times. What were some of your influences?
JW: I set out to make a ballet with words. So, the Michael Powell-Emeric Pressburger movies, especially "The Red Shoes," were a big influence. Also, the aesthetics of Jan .vankmajer, the Czech animator. Also, my own childhood: My parents founded and ran a puppet theater in London. I was brought up in this theatrical, magically world where anything is possible. I really believed in that world. I think that was the biggest influence.
- Steve Rinaldi
Singer / songwriter
- A Matter Of Life And Death is a song written by Steve Rinaldi and released by Rinaldi Sings on the 2005 album What's It All About? (Tangerine Records). The song was inspired by the film A Matter of Life and Death, a 1946 film starring David Niven and Kim Hunter (released as Stairway to Heaven in the US). The song features a sample of actress Kim Hunter's voice, taken from the film and used shortly before the end of the song.
- Hannah McGill
Artistic Director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival
- Interviewed in The Scotsman, Hannah was asked "What is your favourite film and why?"
"Can I have a couple? (Since I see more films than any normal human, that seems fair.) I reshuffle the list on a regular basis, but Michael Powell's The Red Shoes always endures as an utterly perfect meld of spectacle, storytelling and raw emotion. It's camp and histrionic, but absolutely sincere and stirring at the same time."
In the list of The Best British Films Ever in The Independent, Hannah lists:
- Best war film: A Matter of Life and Death
About redemption and hope rather than battlefield glory.
- Mike Hodges
- In "Get Carter and Beyond: The Cinema of Mike Hodges" by Steven Paul Davies (Batsford), Mike Hodges is described as being an admirer of "the writer-director team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger" and describes The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp as being "panoramic and witty" and Gone to Earth as "striking and strange". The Red Shoes is also mentioned later on.
- Malcolm McLaren
Manager of the Sex Pistols and many other things
- Malcolm was featured in the Independent Newspaper (UK) on 7 July 2007 and quoted his "Movie Heaven" as The Red Shoes.
- Barry Norman
- In the list of The Best British Films Ever in The Independent, Barry lists:
- Best romance: I Know Where I'm Going!
A lovely Powell and Pressburger romance.
- Dan Jolin
Features editor, Empire magazine
- In the list of The Best British Films Ever in The Independent, Dan lists:
- Best romance: A Matter of Life and Death
You can't get more romantic.
- Nick James
Editor, Sight and Sound magazine
- In the list of The Best British Films Ever in The Independent, Nick lists:
- Best romance: I Know Where I'm Going!
Quirky tale of a dreamy bride-to-be in the Western Isles.
- Best war film: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
Stirs the right kind of anti-war patriotism in me.
- David McComb
- Michael Eyers tells us:
I've recently bought a rare CD on eBay 'Love Of Will' by the late Australian singer/songwriter David McComb. He was the former front man of seminal 1980s Perth band The Triffids.
The insert of the CD contains a number of stills from Black Narcissus, notably the shot of Sister Ruth applying her lipstick.
- James Bidgood
- Tipu tells us:
Last year the Bright Lights Film Journal carried an interview (conducted in Nov. 2005) with New York City-based underground filmmaker & photographer James Bidgood. He had made a movie called Pink Narcissus about a young gay prostitute that got released in 1971. I had come across the name of the movie & curious about the possible PnP connection read the interview. Disappointingly the title had nothing to do with our Black Narcissus, but the in the following question, Bidgood sites The Red Shoes as one of his inspirations. The interview, with pictures that are not safe to view at work, are at http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/52/bidgoodiv.htm. The bits relevant to us are:
Did you choose the title Pink Narcissus?
Pink Narcissus came about because he was a narcissist ... who was very ... pink.
What were some specific influences on the film?
Well, it's always about MGM musicals and all that kind of stuff. And a movie like The Red Shoes, which was at the time such a phenomenon. God, that picture! They tried to make it into a musical, but it bombed, Jule Styne wrote the music, and they tried it, because it's really such a terribly corny story ... and it is so fabulous.... It's about a girl that's in a ballet that they do called "The Red Shoes" [with Russian accent], the Russian guy, the director of the ballet "The Red Shoes," and it's about a girl who puts on these magic red shoes and then dances to death ... cause she can't take them off. And that's pretty much ... what the movie is about.... She ends up dying in the end, but they still give the ballet but [whispers] with just the shoes!... [gasps] So then he comes out and cries, oh, it's so fabulous.... But the color! There had never been a movie with color like that. They did such wonderful things, it was like gelatin floating down, like gelatin, oh, like floating down! It was incredible! I don't know that there is even a decent [print]. I'm sure they let it go to hell, you know, nobody cared about anything like that, nobody thought it was art until it was too late.
- Hugh Munro Neely
- Randolph "Randy" Man tells us:
You can add writer-producer-director Hugh Munro Neely of Timeline Films and his current producer partner Andi Hicks (who is also the Director of the Mary Pickford Institute, the Foundation's educational wing) to the list of professionals who are PnP fans. I had a marathon meeting with them recently and PnP came up. Hugh is mad about 49thP, and Andi, a petite former TV dancer, is equally mad about The Red Shoes.
- Ashley Pharoah
- Richard Layne tells us:
From a feature in today's (7 Jan 2008) Media Guardian, about Life on Mars creators Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah:
ASHLEY PHAROAH: Social realism has been the dominant narrative form in television for decades now. As writers it's incredibly exciting to break out of that straitjacket, to explore that "other" wing of British storytelling, the tradition of Blake and Wells and Pressburger and Powell and Terry Nation.
- Alison Goldfrapp
- Neil Murray tells us:
In the March (2008) issue of Record Collector, there's an interview with Alison Goldfrapp, the singer from Goldfrapp (believe it or not).
"Film has provided a rich source of inspiration for you, so what would you consider your all- time favourites?"
"Probably pretty much any Powell & Pressburger film - two directors, they did The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus, I Know Where I'm Going, Gone To Earth - also Badlands, Bladerunner, and I really liked American Beauty"
- Prof. Pam Cook
Academic and writer
- Pam Cook wrote the BFI monograph about I Know Where I'm Going!. An interesting, personal view on a great film. Currently Professor Emeritus in Film at the University of Southampton.
- A.L. Kennedy
Writer and academic
- Alison Kennedy wrote the BFI monograph about The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. An interesting, personal view on a great film.
Alison also presented an essay about I Know Where I'm Going! on BBC Radio 3 on 27 Septemver 2013
Sound Of Cinema: The Essay - Praising Powell & Pressburger
- Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah
- Nicky Smith writes:
I'm sure other list members have been enjoying the very watchable new drama about archaeologists - Bonekickers. Have the screenwriters - Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah been noted as celebrity fans? (I seem to remember a discussion about parallels between the Life of Mars finale and AMOLAD)
From an interview in Metro:
"Though their names are always mentioned in the same breath, Graham and Pharoah don't write together, instead taking on separate episodes. Pharoah's interest in Bristol and the slave trade led to episode two, a more ruminative story than Graham's opener, which is populated by sword-wielding Christian fundamentalists.
'We're distinct as writers and it's important to us that our writing is still personal,' says Pharoah. How are they different? 'Matthew has a lot of ideas. I tend to worry at a single idea. Our partnership works because we like and admire each other.'
Is this relationship comparable to any others? 'I suppose the closest we're to, although it sounds immodest, is Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, the great British film-makers. You never knew with them who wrote, directed or produced what. It was just a sort of stamp of quality.'"
- Margaret Hodge MP
- Margaret Hodge is presently (2008) the Minister of State in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. She has also served as the First Minister for Children when the post was created in 2003. She nominated A Matter Of Life And Death as the film that should be preserved for future generations in the BFI Vote saying "I absolutely love it because although technically its a masterpiece, it's also romantic, daring and visually stunning. A Matter of Life and Death is an example of British cinema at its very best."
- Michael Sheen
Actor: Tony Blair in The Queen and Frost in the play and forthcoming film of Frost/Nixon
- From the My London section of the Evening Standard magazine of Friday 17th November, 2006:
LIFE'S LUXURIES - What are your extravagances?
I've got a huge DVD collection. I'm a big fan of the films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, such as A Matter of Life and Death. I've also got a lot of Scorsese and Kurosawa films.
Michael gave an interview/profile to Variety where he included "Three films that mean a lot to me" and top of the list was AMOLAD.
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's A Matter Of Life And Death -- Every frame is perfect. It works for me emotionally, intellectually and aesthetically. And it has that elusive quality of strangeness that all great works of art have.
In an interview with NextMovie Michael said:
"My favorite film of all time is A Matter of Life and Death, directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, starring David Niven. In the U.S. it was called 'Stairway to Heaven.'
"For me, it is beautifully shot. It is fantastically acted. It has a quality of strangeness that I always love in the best works of art. It is about two forms of reality, the real world that David Niven inhabits and this fantastical world of Heaven with angels and all that stuff. And you never get asked to choose which one is the real one or not.
"I think that -- as with all of Powell and Pressburger's films -- it is incredibly progressive for its time and also very challenging, but in the form of being very accessible entertainment. And I love that."
- Rosanna Arquette
- Rosanna attended the screening of the restored version of The Red Shoes at Cannes 2009
- James Gray
- James attended the screening of the restored version of The Red Shoes at Cannes 2009
Natacha adds: After the screening, I saw James Gray for the second time (the first time was before, which touched me because he is one of the members of the jury at Cannes festival this year, for the main competition, which means he has seen a lot of films already) and asked him if he had enjoyed the film. He said yes, of course: he adores the film and saw it many times. He asked me if I had seen Le Narcisse noir (Black Narcissus), which he also likes very much. I said I had! Then I gave him the badge: he was pleased. ;)
- Ang Lee
- Ang Lee attended the screening of the restored version of The Red Shoes at Cannes 2009
- Ben Rivers
- Ben Rivers made a film called I Know Where I'm Going (2009) as a part of Vauxhall's Great British Road Trip. Ben explains the reason behind the commission name; "The title of the film is a reference to the 1945 film of the same name by Powell and Pressburger, they inspired me to become a film maker and I wanted to recognise them in some way. The title is a nice twist to the concept of my film, because I really didn't know where I was going when I set off on my road trip."
- The League of Gentlemen
- Not the 1960 film with Jack Hawkins, Roger Livesey, Richard Attenborough, Byran Forbes and other P&P actors, even though that one does include the painting of Deborah Kerr that was used in Colonel Blimp.
And certainly not the pensioners outing known as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
No, we're talking about the BBC comedy show starring Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton & Reece Shearsmith. Darkly gothic and full of references to many classics, including the classic P&P films.
As well as a passing nun wearing lipstick we have a "behind the eyeball" shot as someone is just being prepared for an operation, and in the next scene someone mentions the smell of fried onions.
- Mark Gatiss
Writer, producer, actor
- Mark is a member of The League of Gentlemen (see above) and has also done work on Doctor Who, Sherlock and other TV classics.
On an edition of Private Passions broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 7 March 2010 Mark mentioned his liking of P&P films and selected the Barcarolle from The Tales of Hoffmann as one of his Private Passions.
Mark Gatiss also declared his affection for Roger Livesey, especially in the three P&P films, in an episode of The Film Programme on BBC Radio 4. It's the last piece in that episode and starts at about 23 minutes in.
- Pedro Almodóvar
Director, writer, producer, actor
- In Los abrazos rotos (2009) [Broken Embrances], the main character is a blind film-maker and in a flashback to when he was making films, someone says to him "You're just like 'Peeping Tom'". Two obvios references to Peeping Tom (1960).
- Joe Swanberg
Actor / Director / Producer
- When he was asked to nominate his Top 10 films for Criterion's newsletter, number 3 in his list was The Red Shoes. Joe says of it:
I was also introduced to Michael Powell's work during film school, and this one particularly blew my mind. I love when all the kids rush into the theater at the beginning to get good seats in the balcony. A title comes on-screen that reads, "45 minutes later," but the shot never cuts or changes. From that point on, I knew I was in good hands. This film taught me that silent-film techniques could, and probably should, be employed in modern sound films. It has taken me several projects of my own to incorporate this lesson, but I'm getting there. I also love films about artists and the creative process.
- Nick Pileggi
- In an interview with The Film Programme on BBC Radio 4 (3rd July 2009), Thelma Schoonmaker said how it was The Red Shoes that had inspired Nick Pileggi to leave his Brooklyn home, move to Manhatten and become a writer. He of course went on to write Goodfellas and Casino for Scorsese.
- Wayne Shorter
Jazz saxophonist and composer
- In an interview with The Film Programme on BBC Radio 4 (3rd July 2009), T helma Schoonmaker said how Wayne has told her that The Red Shoes is his favourite film and that he's seen it 25 times.
- Lenny Henry
- On a BBC Radio2 programme "The Movie That Changed My Life" (Friday 24 July, 7.00-7.30pm) Lenny talked about A Matter of Life and Death as "The Movie That Changed My Life" with contributions from Ian Christie and Thelma Schoonmaker.
- Daniel Radcliffe
- In an interview on DanRadcliffe.com Daniel was asked to name his favourite films (amongst other things).
Q: What is your favorite book/film?
A: "I have three joint favorite films actually and they're all old ones -- "Dr Strangelove," "12 Angry Men," and a film I watched twice recently, "A Matter of Life and Death," it's amazing, it's bizarre.
Favorite book would be "The old man and the Sea," "Germinal" and also "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," which is probably on every teenagers' list but it is a great book."
See also the entry for J.K. Rowling.
- Jennifer Charles
singer, musician, composer, and poet
singer, guitarist, and composer
- The lovely Natacha referred me to an interview with American singer, musician, composer, and poet, Jennifer Charles and singer, guitarist, and composer, Oren Bloedow in a French online magazine. The interview is in French but they are talking about their latest album with their band Elysian Fields and the influences they took from The Red Shoes. The film, and Powell and Pressburger, get name-checked quite a few times through the interview.
- Raymond Chandler
- An interesting letter (published in his collected letters) by Raymond Chandler praising I Know Where I'm Going!.
- Ernest Dickerson
- On the DVD commentary of Do the Right Thing (1989), Ernest Dickerson says his inspiration for style of the film was Powell and Pressberger Technicolor films like The Red Shoes and A Matter of Life and Death.
- Cynthia Beatt
Writer / Director
- Cynthia emailed me to say how much she loves the P&P films and how she got Tilda Swinton to sing "I know where I'm going..." in Cynthia's film The Invisible Frame.
- Ray Davies
- Ray Davies (of The Kinks) was interviewed by The A.V. Club:
In it they say:
AVC: Going back to Blake, your songs touch on a complicated vision of Englishness, not purely nostalgic, but touching on the darker undercurrents as well. It's evocative of some of Michael Powell's movies.
RD: Michael Powell? I'm so flattered. I think he's brilliant. You mean A Canterbury Tale?
AVC: I Know Where I'm Going!
RD: Right, okay. And a lot of his stuff is God-fearing. Blake and all those Victorian artists - there's an artist called John Martin, and his apocalyptic vision is pure God-fearing, and the darkness of the Victorian era that I guess lends itself to my darker humor or darker sides. I'm happy to be part of that tradition.
- Theodore J. "Ted" Flicker
- Ted Flicker (writer-director of The President's Analyst and co-creator and writer on "Barney Miller"), who had a successful career in theater, film, and television before turning to sculpture, remembers the movie as the event that changed his life.
"In 1949, when I was 19 years old and an acting major at Bard College, I had experienced that moment of artistic ecstasy that comes when you do art right and you make a connection with the unknown. But I was untrained, and I kept struggling to find that feeling again."
The Red Shoes had just opened in New York, and Flicker went to see it. "When Anton Walbrook, as Lermontov, says, 'For me, art is a religion,' it struck me like the lightning hitting Alvin York's rifle [in Sergeant York]. And I knew in that instant that art was my religion as well. At 19 I had no idea of what it meant to me and what it would mean to me." The revelation propelled Flicker to London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, "which, thank God, was a Victorian acting school; and it was all about discipline. And the discipline was about the idea that the audience that comes on a dreary, damp Tuesday night is entitled to the same electrifying performance that the Saturday-night audience got."
- Arnaud Fleurent-Didierg
- We met Arnaud at the 2009 Brive Film Festival and he told us that there's a small quote from The Red Shoes in his song "Imbécile heureux" on the album "La Reproduction".
We met Arnaud Fleurent-Didier at a restaurant there and got chatting, as you do. He was on the jury, judging the films in competition and as he's also a musician, he put on a concert of some of the more film related music that he's done.
When he asked us why we were there, as soon as we mentioned Powell he told us that he quoted a short extract from The Red Shoes in one of his songs. We chatted a bit more then, and when we met again over the next few days. On the night of his very well attended concert he dedicated one number to "his new friend, Steve. The biggest Powell & Pressburger fan" and he mentioned that the next song quoted from The Red Shoes - Powell & Pressburger's masterpiece.
It did, just a few bars from the ballet music tucked away in there. I recognised it but not many others did. But I told him afterwards when I thanked him & congratulated him. I'll sort out the details of the track & see if anyone else can hear the quote
Listen to it in the extract here. It's about 9 seconds in and is repeated at the end of the song. It really is a very little bit, just a couple of bars of the flourish that they're rehearsing when Julian tells Vicky to follow the baton.
- Sanjeev Bhaskar
Actor, writer, director etc.
- Sanjeev Bhaskar, writer, director, performer best known in the UK for comedy shows on TV like Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars at No. 42. He introduced Craig McCall's documentary about Jack Cardiff (alongside Martin Scorsese) at gthe NFT referring to watching the wonderful Powell and Pressburger films with his family when he was young. He knew Jack well and worked with him on The Dance of Shiva (1998).
In his introduction he described Black Narcissus as being about "a bunch of nuns in the Himalayas discovering that India makes you horny" :)
- Andy Serkis
- In an article in The Independent where stars reveal the film that changed their life, Andy Serkis says "As a child it was The Red Shoes. It made me think, 'Wow, what an extraordinary film.' It was just such a magical experience - tragic and haunting. It's stayed in my memories to this day. I remember being really drawn into it. It made me want to explore further."
- Tamsin Greig
- In an article in The Independent where stars reveal the film that changed their life, Tamsin Greig says "Films that inspired my journey include A Matter of Life and Death and Grease. I once watched Grease seven times in a week! I also became fascinated with Betty Blue - the love story that broke my heart."
Tamsin has another connection to The Archers. She plays 'Debbie Aldridge' in the long running BBC radio series, "The Archers" :) [Rural radio soap opera, no connection to P&P]
- Amy Dickinson
American newspaper columnist
- Writer of the syndicated advice column "Ask Amy". When asked to program her favourite films at the Cinemapolis, Ithaca, NY Amy started with I Know Where I'm Going! (27 May 2010)
- Richard Baluyut
- Interviewed for Spin magazine, bassist Richard Baluyut of New York Indie trio Versus says of their new song "Gone to Earth":
"'Gone to Earth' is based on one of my favorite movies, of the same name, by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, about a girl too innocent and pure for the harsh light of the modern -- well, 1950! -- world," Baluyut tells SPIN.com. "I am always a sucker for stories like these."
- Quentin Tarantino
- Quentin Tarantino said that The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp was a direct influence on Reservoir Dogs - the central action scene (the duel, the jewel robbery) being much built-up to and then not seen (but commented on extensively by characters afterwards), and the shifts in time from past to present.
- Edgar Wright
Director of Scott Pilgrim & Shaun Of The Dead
- Edgar was interviewed and asked about his Top Ten Favourite Musicals. He put The Red Shoes near the top of the list saying:
It's no wonder that this is Martin Scorsese's favorite movie. It's pretty much a one stop film school as Michael Powell uses every photographic technique (yes, even the whip pan) to bring this tragic tale to the screen. Watching it today, the directorial skills that Powell employed in this 1948 production are just staggering. The 15-minute centerpiece ballet sequence is a masterclass of in-camera effects, extraordinary matte paintings and more crucially, pure cinematic emotion. You cannot fail to be impressed by this timeless classic. If you are, please move along. I don't want to speak to you anymore, x.
- Luke Haines
- Luke Haines of The Auteurs wrote a couple of extra tracks for his compilation, 'Das Capital', one of them being called "Michael Powell". This was originally called "The Mitford Sisters" and he still refers to it as that in the sleeve notes (so say some web sites). But in a strange middle 8, the lyrics include phrases like "June, can you hear me?", "June, do you love me?", "June, can you hear me on the wireless?" - a definite reference to A Matter of Life and Death
Listen to it here (MP3)
The most interesting (to us) part is about 3 minutes in
Now we just need to find out the story behind it and why he included those references in this song.
- Katherine Hepburn
- Randy pointed out the interview with Kate in "I Know Where I'm Going: Katharine Hepburn, A Personal Biography" by Charlotte Chandler. Simon & Schuster 2010.
The following is a conversation at teatime and is preceded by a Heburn discourse on the subject.
"Did you ever see the film I Know Where I'm Going!?" she asked me. "Wendy Hiller. It's one of my favorite films."
"One of mine, too," I said. "You would have been great in that film as the heroine."
"I would have liked that part, but Wendy Hiller was perfect. I didn't play it in the film, but more important, I had that role in real life. I was the I-know-where-I'm-going girl.
"You can still make some choices pretty late, as long as you haven't made those choices that determine your whole life very early. You know, marriage, and especially children. You can leave a marriage, not as easily as people think, but it's possible. I did, but not without certain pangs. You can't walk away from a child.
"The story I Know Where I'm Going didn't end the way the heroine had expected. She didn't go where she thought she was going. She did all the right things to take her to her goal, to a rich, urbane, social husband who would provide a secure place in society for her. Then, on the way to her wedding, romance found her, or she found romance, and she abandoned those plans for a more challenging and somewhat impoverished rural lfe with the titled Scottish hero she loves."
"I wonder if she was happy with her choice." I said.
"Oh, she must have been," Kate said. "It's like what happened to me with Spencer. I met him, and I quivered like Jell-O if you gave it a slight shake. I was mush. Absolute mush.
She continues on about her life with Spencer Tracy.
- Stephen Woolley
- Interviewed on Film 2010 on BBC TV (9 November 2010), Stephen said:
Most Influential Director: Michael Powell
"Of all the filmmakers, dead or alive, I'm going to go with Michael Powell. Michael Powell's Red Shoes was made at a time when cameras were very big and it was very hard to get fluidity, and there's a fluidity to the dancing in The Red Shoes, and there's a fluidity to the emotional journey that the dancer takes us on. It isn't just about the dance, it isn't just about the beauty of the film; it's about the sacrifice you make for art."
- Rufus Sewell
- Rufus Sewell, 43, is an English stage, film and television actor. Making his breakthrough in BBC1's adaptation of George Eliot's Middlemarch in 1993, he then starred in films such as The Illusionist and The Legend of Zorro. In 2006, he won an Olivier award for best actor for his role in Tom Stoppard's Rock'n'Roll. Recent TV credits include Eleventh Hour in the US and The Pillars of the Earth in the UK. Now he's in Zen, an Italian detective drama based on Michael Dibdin's novels.
When interviewed in The Observer (9 January 2011) and asked to name his favourite book, music etc. When it came to films he said:
"Powell and Pressburger
I'm working my way through the back catalogue again, but trying to find the more obscure, lost ones, like A Canterbury Tale. They're very adult: they don't patronise.
They are not cliched; they do something else. I find them similar to Martin Scorsese in that way."
- Scott Morse
- Scott was asked to choose his Top Ten Criterion titles
Scott Morse is a storyteller with one foot in the world of comics and the other in the world of film. His books Soulwind, Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!, and the Kurosawa-inspired tale The Barefoot Serpent have garnered critical acclaim and a niche fan base. Currently working in the story department at Pixar, he's helped shape Ratatouille, Wall-E, Cars 2, and numerous short films. "Picking a Criterion top ten is like picking which of your kids you love more," Morse writes. "These choices of mine are a gunslinger's reaction, shooting from the hip and plugging them in alphabetical order."
At number 6 (in alphabetical order) we find ... The Red Shoes
"Hey, storytellers: if you're adapting a classic, this is film school 101. Never before or since (though I love Black Swan for trying) has anyone achieved what Powell and Pressburger did here, in terms of character and theme. Add the beautiful work of Jack Cardiff and you achieve something of which I, personally, can only hope to replicate a glimmer as a visual storyteller in comics and animation: Technicolor atmosphere that conveys immediate emotion and also has a lasting impact."
- Mark Romanek
- Alan Ward tells us:
"I like Ealing comedies and a lot of Michael Powell's films" says Mark Romanek, director of Never Let Me Go in an interview in The Telegraph Magazine of 8th January.
- Georgia Hubley
- Founder member of the Hoboken, New Jersey, band Yo La Tengo, as well as the daughter of renowned animators John and Faith Elliott Hubley. Georgia was asked by C riterion to make a list of her top 10 Criterion titles. Number 1 on her list is Peeping Tom
- Neil Tennant
- In their 2003 video, Go West, a remix of the Village People classic, The Pet Shop Boys make extensive use of an escalator with statues on either side, leading to the promised land.
In an interview, Tennant said:
In the early Nineties they had a season of Powell and Pressburger films on BBC or Channel 4 and I videoed them all, and I loved them and I still love them. We had a meeting at my house about the video for "Go West" and I put on A Matter Of life And Death, the famous scene where they're going to heaven on a big staircase. Howard Greenhalgh said, "Oh yeah, that's great' And David Fielding designed some new helmets and things, and we just went with the staircase. Again, this is super-cartoon-y. You probably don't imagine that someone like us would think like this, but we were always aware that we had quite a lot of young fans. Children used to like the Pet Shop Boys. And we liked the fact we were doing something that the children of friends of ours would like as much as adults thinking it was all ironic and funny. It had a Saturday morning cartoon-like feel about it.
- Anne Rice
- Dan Osterman tells us:
I am reading Anne Rice's "Called out of Darkness" autobio of her conversion to Christianity. In it she mentions briefly being influenced in her writing by the films of Michael Powell:
"I also believed intensely in spectacle - flamboyant behavior, violent clashes, a certain swashbuckling type of action which I'd learned from films of the the 50's that had made such a strong mark on my nonliterate mind. In my work I strove for the high-pitched beauty of Michael Powell's The Red Shoes or The Tales of Hoffmann."
- Zoey Van Goey
- Zoey Van Goey are an indie pop band from Glasgow. They named their 2nd album "Propeller Versus Wings" from the line in AMOLAD and used the style of the film to set the bittersweet tone of the record.
- John Bailey
- When asked by Criterion to make a list of his Top 10, John said:
"One of the greatest challenges in trying to compile a list like this is to separate the objectively .great. films from the subjectivity of ones that influenced me the most as I was forging my own way. This group looms large for me on both counts."
The second film he selected was Black Narcissus. He said:
"A film that is the cinematic antipode of The Battle of Algiers (his first choice). Photographed by the great Jack Cardiff, designed by Alfred Junge (both of whom received Oscars for their work here), this film was considered by Michael Powell to be the 'most erotic' of all his films. That it takes place within a community of nuns gives his claim a deliciously profane edginess. It is the film that made me first realize how much cinematography can and should contribute to the emotional, dramatic thrust of a movie. It was also a great influence on my own film, the never released Mariette in Ecstasy, a bittersweet experience that made me realize how much more freedom I would always have as a cinematographer than as just another struggling director trapped in the Hollywood system."
- Joann Sfar
Director, Screenwriter, Author
- When he attended a book signing in Paris he was allowed to select a favourite film for a screening. He chose The Red Shoes (Les chaussons rouges)
- Adrian Sturges
- Adrian Sturges, producer of The Escapist, which won the British Independent Film Award for Best Achievement in Production, says in a profile for The British Council says his favourite film is The Red Shoes. Of course it is!
- Samm Haillay
- Samm Haillay, producer of Duane Hopkins's multi-award winning short films and his feature debut, Better Things, names Black Narcissus, A Matter of Life and Death and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, when asked which is his favourite British film in a profile for The British Council
- Kate Muir
- Nicholas Waller tells us:
I Know Where I'm Going!! mentioned in The Times
"Writers choose their top romantic films - With bestselling romance One Day about to hit cinemas, we name the films that make us want to fall in love again"
Various films in the list of, I think, 14 - not just some usual suspects like Brief Encounter, To Have and Have Not, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Cinema Paradiso, but some odd ones like The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe animation (the comfortable married love between the Beavers), and Double Indemnity (the love being between Fred MacMurray as Walter and Edward G. Robinson as Keyes).
I Know Where I'm Going! is in there:
Kate Muir on I Know Where I'm Going! (1945)
"I Know Where I'm Going! is a classic in which an ambitious, social-climbing young Englishwoman goes north to marry a rich industrialist on a Scottish island. On arrival, she slowly falls in love with another sort of man entirely. The movie begins as high-camp comedy and ends in high passion by Moy Castle in Mull, via a knuckle-munching boat ride through the Corryvreckan whirlpool. The stars are the cut-glass accented Wendy Hiller and the handsome Naval captain Roger Livesey, the man she is attracted to against her will. The industrialist is only heard on the radio from the island of Kiloran. The story is about throwing away preconceptions and national stereotypes, and just going for it, which I did. And I have crossed the Corryvreckan with my husband on a very rough day.
"The portrayal of the Scots as good, simple folk fond of cheery ceilidhs is hysterical, but the delicately played romance is just delicious."
Does Kate Muir count as famous enough to be a fan?
She's "Chief Film Critic of The Times" - see her tweets, one of which says "Favorite minor characters: the bracing, vaguely lesbotic Catriona in I Know Where I'm Going!". She seems to be on holiday in Scotland right now; another reads "We are going to Harry Potter in the Screen Machine, an 80-seat cinema in a lorry that tours the Highlands. In Lochgilphead. The thrill!"
- Ted Flicker
- Paula Vitaris tells us:
Can Ted Flicker, director of The President's Analyst, be counted as a "famous fan"?
From his webpage:
"It was 1949 and I was nineteen years old. Michael Powel's film The Ballet of the Red Shoes Opened in New York, and I went to see it. When Anton Walbrook as Lermontov says, "Art is my Religion". It struck me like the lightening hitting Alvin York's rifle. I knew that my religion, my connection to The Unknown was Art."
Flicker gave up filmmaking some years ago and is now a sculptor
- Philip Hunt
Partner & Creative Director at the acclaimed Studio AKA
- Interviewed for Everything PR News, Philip was asked about his heroes and role models.
He said "I worship Michal Powell & Emeric Pressburger for everything they did on film"
- Brad Bird
Academy Award-winning American director, voice actor, animator and screenwriter
- Interviewed for The Dayil Beast's and asked to name his "10 Favorite Winter Films", Brad included The Red Shoes saying "A dark film, so you may want to wait until Christmas is over (and you are faced with the end of the holidays). The Red Shoes is a gorgeous fable about the consuming power of artistic passion. Michael Powell at his very best."
- Patton Oswalt
Actor and writer
- Interviewed for Caprica TV about Young Adult he was asked:
Which is an actor or director whose work you really admire, and when you go back to watch, you are just constantly amazed at their work?
Oswalt: It's weird and this is cyclical thing for me, but I'm on this weird Michael Powell kick again. Every few years I go back and just get immersed in his movies. I just watched Black Narcissus again and The Red Shoes, and Colonel Blimp. Now I'm starting to realizing just through my behavior of how I watch movies, that he's the guy that I didn't realize I was so obsessed with all these years. That's the guy I just keep going back to. I can't help it.
- Oliver Sacks
neurologist, psychologist and writer
- Oliver wrote a nice appreciation of Diane Friedman's book on AMOLAD saying:
I had seen A Matter of Life and Death as a boy - it came out just after World War II, and I remembered being haunted by the power and strangeness of the film with its large escalator running up to heaven and the weird six-note musical motif that ran through it.
and he concluded by saying:
By a happy coincidence, the original 1946 film has just been re-released with restored footage in The Collector's Choice: The Films of Michael Powell. One hopes that everyone, but especially physicians and neurologists, will visit or revisit this unique double treat, a firstclass piece of film, full of human drama with, if one has eyes to see it, a minutely worked-out neurological basis.
- William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
Directors, writers, designers
- In an interview with PaPAS group member Vicki Ormiston, Academy Award winners William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg revealed:
We are big fans of Powell/Pressburger. We used Red Shoe and Life and Death as color reference.
- Matthew Goode
- The Metro newspaper has actor Matthew Goode listing his favourite films.
After Jaws and The Big Lebowski but ahead of Groundhog Day and The Shawshank Redemption he lists A Matter of Life and Death saying:
This Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger classic features my favourite David Niven performance. It's visually stunning and so far ahead of its time for sheer cinematic invention. It's beautifully touching and witty, and if you haven't seen it, you're in for a treat.
- Charlotte Dellal
- Tipu reports:
I don't know how famous she is (I asked my wife & she hadn't heard of her) but today's Wall Street Journal had a '20 Odd Questions' interview with her. In one of them, she said she liked old movies like Gone With The Wind, All About Eve & The Red Shoes.
- Elvis Costello
- Nicholas Waller reminds us:
Elvis Costello (Declan MacManus) has been outed as a P&P fan. On The Film Programme on BBC Radio 4 on 17 May 2012 they did a special programme all about The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. They interviewed Martin Scorsese, Thelma Schoonmaker, Kevin Macdonald & Ian Christie. In the course of the interview, Marty said "I was talking to Elvis Costello a couple of months ago and he was talking about about how much he adored the picture and particularly Livesey and his voice."
- Franck Khalfoun
Director, actor, writer
- In an interview talking about his film Maniac (2012) Franck said:
"It may be the fact that Michael Powell's brilliant Peeping Tom is seared into my brain but I can.t help seeing a little of Carl Boehm's performance in Elijah Wood here, albeit in trailer friend short stabs of action, but it will be Wood who carries this, and the man needs to engage before he can engorge. That's a very tenuous piece of wordplay but the truth of it remains."
Mull based Scottish band
- Inspired by I Know Where I'm Going!, the video for their song "My Mind" includes steam trains and lots of IKWIG locations on Mull - including pieces of paper being blown out to sea from Carsaig pier
- J.K. Rowling
Author of the Harry Potter books
- We already have Daniel Radcliffe on the Famous Fans list for saying in an interview that AMOLAD is one of his 3 favourite films.
Now, Daniel & J.K. Rowling discuss Harry Potter's lack of nudity in Deathly Hallows and they both say that AMOLAD is their favourite film.
Dan: The one night you came and saw Equus was also the night someone threw an owl onto stage.
J.K.: That was the night someone threw an owl onto stage and you said to me, "That's the only time that's happened." And I said, "Well, I threw it. No coincidence."
Dan: And then you said something like, "Well I'm gonna have you naked in the last book then." And I laughed. But YOU DID!
J.K: I did, but that was always - I swear on my life, I promise you - that was always planned.
Dan: When we'd done that, I'm not naked-naked. I'm in ...
J.K.: Well, frankly, I'm disappointed because you did it in Equus so why can't you do it for Harry Potter?
Dan: What we've done is a kind of ...
J.K.: You were in a toweling robe.
Dan: (laughs) Yes. No. We've gone for that kind of that ... have you seen one of my favorite films is A Matter of Life and Death?
J.K.: (gasps) That's my favorite film of all time!
Dan: Oh really?
J.K: How have we never discussed that before?
Dan: We really, really, really, really haven't planned this, for anybody watching.
J.K.: Is that really true?
Dan: Yeah, I've got three favorite films: Twelve Angry Men, A Matter of Life and Death, and Dr. Strangelove. A Matter of Life and Death is probably, you know, supersedes.
J.K.: You have very good taste in films. That is my favorite, favorite, favorite film of all time.
Dan: Well, we've done sort of that. So the afterlife was - I'm all in grey tones.
J.K.: So if it's a tribute to A Matter of Life and Death ... actually, I told David Heyman years and years and years and YEARS ago that A Matter of Life and Death was my favorite film.
- Alex Prager
- Alex has said that much of her work is inspired by The Red Shoes, especially La Petite Mort (2012)
- William Friedkin
- In his Top 10 films chosen for the Criterion Newsletter he says of The Red Shoes:
Freely adapted from a story by Hans Christian Andersen. It's a must for anyone interested in the art of film. It always seems to me a work of true madness about a descent into madness. Original and timeless, it's also a glorious celebration of classical. ballet and the pain and effort it takes to make it. The matchless beauty of Moira Shearer is captured by the cinematography of Jack Cardiff, and Anton Walbrook (as the impresario of the ballet company) gives an unforgettable performance, one that alone is worth the price of admission. The film is a transcendent experience, and the Criterion Blu-ray gives new luster to the imagery and sound. You need to see this, unless, like me, you've already watched it endlessly.
- Nick Hornby
- Patrick Curren points out:
Novelist Nick Hornby lists The LIfe and Death of Colonel Blimp as one of his Top 5 Favourite Movies.
- Jean-Pierre Melville
- Tim tells us
I would like to propopse adding JPM to the famous fans list. In a 1968 interview Bertrand Tavernier said to Michael Powell 'Do you know that the French director Jean-Pierre Melville considers Colonel Blimp one of the best movies in the world?'.
MP replied 'Here's someone I would like to meet!'.
- Valerie Harper
- Andrew Moor tells us:
I've found another celebrity fan of P&P for you to advertise!!! Valerie Harper of 'Rhoda' / 'Mary Tyler Moore'. I'm reading 'Vito' (articles by Vito Russo). Feb 11, 1976, in 'The Advocate' he interviewed Valerie. "What can I tell you. I'd seen The Red Shoes and wanted to be a ballerina'. She did train to dance, but never became a ballerina. She's terminally ill at the moment - a rare form of brain cancer. :-(
- David Chase
Producer & Writer
- The Playlist reports:
There's a fun little series on NPR, titled "Watch This," which occasionally takes a look at the favorite films from filmmakers such as William Friedkin, Paul Feig, and Kevin Smith. The latest edition features "The Sopranos" creator David Chase and it's filled with a lot of interesting choices. It's always fascinating to learn more about what influences certain filmmakers and Chase's list definitely reflects that.
His list includes Stanley Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon," Vittorio De Sica's "Bicycle Thieves," Laurel and Hardy's "Saps at Sea," Powell and Pressburger's "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" and "A Canterbury Tale", Lindsay Anderson's "O Lucky Man!," Luis Bunuel's "Tristana" and "Viridana," and Johnathan Demme's "Something Wild"
- Paul J. Franklin
Special Effects Guru
- Paul was awarded an Oscar for the special effects on Inception (2010) and has also been honoured for his work on films like Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) and The Dark Knight (2008).
But when Paul was invited to select his favourite film on "Front Row", the arts news & round-up on BBC Radio 4 as a part of their Cultural Exchange series where they invite creative minds to talk about the cultural work that inspires them. Paul selected and spoke about The Thief of Bagdad, speaking about the performances and also the special effects.
- Spike Lee
- Spike has an Essential List of Films for Filmmakers that he shows to his students at The NYU Graduate Film School and advises that they all watch and study.
The list includes The Red Shoes
- Deborah Bull
ballerina, writer and broadcaster
- In their "Sound of Cinema" season, Deborah Bull gave an essay on The Red Shoes on BBC Radio 3 on 23 September 2013
Sound Of Cinema: The Essay: Praising Powell & Pressburger
- The Reverend Richard Coles
Musician and priest
- In their "Sound of Cinema" season, Richard Coles gave an essay on A Matter of Life and Death on BBC Radio 3 on 25 September 2013
Sound Of Cinema: The Essay: Praising Powell & Pressburger
- Dario Argento
Writer / Director
- At the Dario Argento interview at the NFT on 7 November 2013 Dario mentioned The Red Shoes as in an influence on him saying he liked Pressburger and Powell (it was interesting to hear it that way round for a change). He then mentioned something about one of his own films Suspiria before going on to say that he also admired Peeping Tom. Some of the interview will be on the BFI website in the future so hopefully that section will be included.
- Matt Fraction
- The Dissolve interviewed Matt about his choice for Compulsory Viewing where he chose and talks about A Matter of Life and Death.
- The British band Dreadzone produced a CD "Second Light" which contains extracts from The Thief of Bagdad and A Canterbury Tale
- Anthony Burgess
- Andrew Moor tells us:
Some friends at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation dug this out - a season of films Burgess programmed in 1984. And look - not one but two P&Ps (49th Parallel and I Know Where I'm Going!)!! Thought you'd be interested to see it!!
- Kurt Weill
- Richard Layne tells us: From his letters to Lotte Lenya, Kurt Weill wrote:
"Yesterday a very interesting, beautifully photografed english picture about a nun convent in India, Black Narcissus, with Deborah Kerr who is quite lovely. They are away ahead of Hollywood, better ideas, better scripts, better color, and much better acting.
Kurt Weill, London, May 8, 1947
- The Webb
- The British Electro Goth Punk Band The WEBB use samples from A Matter of Life and Death on their "Time" album on the song "This is The Universe"
They use the introduction from "This is the universe. Big isn't it" to "That point of fire is a burning city. It had a thousand bomber raid an hour ago" then they repeat a few other extracts.
- Christopher Hobbs
- Christopher's Top 10 selection for Criterion includes Black Narcissus
Christopher says of it:
It is hard to believe that this film about a nunnery in the Himalayas was filmed entirely at Pinewood Studios outside London. We are used now to entirely digital sets, but Alfred Junge's designs and Jack Cardiff's wonderful lighting and camera work are dazzling, the illusions spectacular. Add to this a gripping story beautifully acted and directed, despair, passion, and madness; you can't lose.
- Richard Osman
British TV presenter, producer and director
- On the 31 November 2014 edition of "Pointless", one of the questions in the final round was to name films by "Famous Michaels", Michael Moore, Mike Leighor Michael Powell. Although neither of the finalists guessed any films by Powell they did suggest that Mike Leigh had directed Batman Begins.
When it came to announce the results, none of Powell's films apart from The Red Shoes or A Matter of Life and Death and Peeping Tom had been mentioned by any of the 100 people surveyed, leaving the remainder as "pointless".
But when he listed the possible answers, Richard Osman said that the Powell (& Pressburger) films were highly recommended and that it would be a great way to spend a weekend by watching a boxed set of P&P films
- John Wesley Harding
- Last, but by no means least is PnP group member Wesley Stace who performs using the stage name John Wesley Harding.
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