Powell…Or Powell and Pressburger. The team of “The Archers” as they are known and proclaim (complete with their own mission statement long before Lars von Trier and the Dogme 95). I usually only consider Powell, not only because he has a very accomplished solo work (Peeping Tom) but because it is pretty well known that he did the bulk of the directing (sort of like another British duo Merchant/Ivory). From Wikipedia: “Powell did most of the directing while Pressburger did most of the work of the producer and also assisted with the editing, especially the way the music was used.” Powell, Lean, and Hitchcock are usually considered the best British directors of all-time. Obviously Hitch is in his own class and really it’s Lawrence that separates Powell and Lean for me. There’s no film from P & P in the top 138 though their quality beyond that in their filmography is remarkable. They have 10 archiveable films and 8 are in the top 100 of their respective decade (Kubrick is 8 for 12 when doing the same). They dominated with 1940’s with 7 of the top 100 films that decade.
Best film: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. Many call it the greatest of all British films or the most British of all great films. I have this as their best film largely because of that incredible narrative—we’ll see if it can hold off the stunning visuals of Narcissus the next time I dive into a study.
total archiveable films: 10
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 5 (The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Black Narcissus, A Matter of Life and Death, Peeping Tom, The Red Shoes)
top 100 films of the decade: 8 (The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Black Narcissus, A Matter of Life and Death, Peeping Tom, The Red Shoes, The Thief of Baghdad, 49th Parallel, I Know Where I’m Going)
most overrated: Canterbury Tale. The TSPDT consensus has it at #305 and their 5th best and I have it outside of my top 500 and at #8 for the duo (and #9 for Powell).
most underrated: Black Narcissus is virtually tied with Colonel Blimp on both my list and the TSPDT so I’ll use it here since I have Colonel Blimp above. The TSPDT consensus has it #166 and I have it at #141—not far off. I think it’s their most beautiful film (Scorsese and some others would argue The Red Shoes is). It’s in gorgeous Technicolor.
gem I want to spotlight: A Matter of Life and Death– it’s inventive, emotional and intelligent. This is not a bad starting spot if you haven’t seen much P&P. It’s their top rated film on TSPDT.
stylistic innovations/traits: When I think of Powell I think first of color—in a time when few films used it and nobody used it as well (and few have since). They are known for a touch of magical realism in their films and many have elements of fantasy in them.
- The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
- Black Narcissus
- A Matter of Life and Death
- Peeping Tom
- The Red Shoes
- The Thief of Baghdad
- 49th Parallel
- I Know Where I’m going
- Canterbury Tale
- Tales of Hoffman
By year and grades
|1940- The Thief of Bagdad||HR|
|1941- The 49th Parallel||HR|
|1943- The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp||MP|
|1944- Canterbury Tale||R/HR|
|1945- I Know Where I’m Going||HR|
|1946- A Matter of Life and Death||MP|
|1947- Black Narcissus||MP|
|1948- The Red Shoes||MS|
|1951- Tales of Hoffman|
|1960- Peeping Tom||MS|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
A matter of life and death is such a good movie. I saw it today. My 2nd Powell movie. (1st was Peeping Tom). I’m thinking of doing a Powell ‘study’. Which film should I watch next?
Black Narcissus is stunning.
Thanks for your suggestion. I’ll check it out.
@Azman, you should see Red Shoes, Drake is right that it is one of the most beautiful color movies
I know you’re already being pulled in 18 different direction about what movies to watch when, but a Powell study would be nice.
@Graham- Yes for sure- this study is overdue
My ranking of Powell’ films that I`ve seen:
1. Black Narcissus MP
2. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp MP
3. A Matter of Life and Death MP
4. The Red Shoes MP
5. Peeping Tom MS
6. I Know Where I`m Going HR
7. The Thief of Bagdad HR
8. 49th Parallel HR
9. The Small Back Room HR
10. Tales of Hoffmann HR
11. A Canterbury Tale R/HR
5 Best Performances
1. Kerr- Black Narcissus
2. Livesey- The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
3. Byron- Black Narcissus
4. Farrar- The Small Back Room
5. Hiller- I Know Where I`m Going