MICHAEL POWELL CENTENARY EXHIBITION: .A LIFE IN MOVIES.
To be opened on Founder's Day, Saturday July 2, 2005, at 2.40 p.m. by Ian Christie, FBA, Professor of Film and Media History, Birkbeck, University of London.
Michael Powell, whose career was ruined by the critics. shocked reception of Peeping Tom of 1961 - a film maudit . is now recognised as one of the truly great British film directors with more imaginative films to his credit than any other - original, iconoclastic and entertaining. He and his script-writer of seventeen years, the Hungarian Emeric Pressburger, made such classic films as The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, I Know Where I'm Going, A Matter of Life and Death, Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes. The film critic David Thomson (OA) wrote that .Powell was English but Celtic, sublime yet devious, magical in the resolute certainty that imagination rules.. His wartime idealism and his examination of Englishness are both poetic and astringent: .I have mirrored England to the English. They have not understood the image in the mirror..
Michael Powell (1905-90) attended Dulwich College as a boarder in Blew House from January 1920 to July 1922. He contributed a poem and a piece of prose to the Alleynian, and wrote about his schooldays in his autobiography. He spent most of his time out of class, he claimed, up a tree, reading. The Michael Powell Estate has lent to this exhibition items connected with his childhood and schooldays, unseen in public before; these include letters from Blew House, family photographs, and the Greek Testament won by Powell as a prize for the best boy in the fifth form in Greek and English. He set himself to win this prize endowed by his own aunt in memory of his eldest brother John Miles Powell, who died a few months after leaving school.
Like P. G. Wodehouse, Powell was put to work in a bank because his parents could not afford to send him to university. A Dulwich friend showed him Picturegoer, a movie magazine; this defined his future. Visiting his father in the south of France he was introduced to the American film crew of the silent film director Rex Ingram at the Victorine Studios in Nice: for Ingram he mopped the floor, photographed stills, worked in the editing room, and wrote narrative titles.
The exhibition traces his career, with many black and white stills and photographs of Powell at work, books and ephemera, and commentary on twenty films, from The Edge of the World (1937) to the Age of Consent (1969). Facsimile pages of the script of A Matter of Life and Death showing Michael Powell's annotations, never exhibited before, should fascinate adults and inspire the young. The Wodehouse Library downstairs at the same time on the afternoon of Founder's Day will show a number of the films, including the rare wartime film An Airman's Letter to his Mother of 1941.
The exhibition continues during Library hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) on weekdays only in term time until Wednesday July 6. It resumes during Michaelmas Term on Wednesday 31 August until Wednesday 30 November; closed (half-term) 17-22 October. Visitors from outside the College must report to Reception.
Note: There is a centenary season of Michael Powell films and of related events in August at the National Film Theatre and at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.