Michael Powell
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

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Michael Powell si fece le ossa negli anni Venti nella piccola Hollywood fondata da Ree Ingram sulla costa azzurra. Esordì come regista di film commerciali a basso budget nel 1931, come Something Always Happens (1934) A well-dressed young man loses all his money at poker. A starving child with torn clothes steals food at the market but is caught. He is saved by the young man, who accepts to take him with him. They have no money but find a Dickens'-ain landlady willing to give them lodging and food on credit. While hs is inspecting a car for a new scheme of his, he meets a rich girl and pretends that he owns the luxury car, unaware that she is the pwner. She goes along with his lie and has him take her to an expensive restaurant. He eventually confesses that he can't pay the bill but finds a way to cheap the restaurant. She gives him a business idea that keeps him up all night. He tries to sell his idea to a tycoon of gas stations (unaware that he is the rich girl's father). When this tycoon, whose business is booming, scorns him, the young man sells the idea to the competitors. His idea turns out to be very successful. Not only does he get wealthy, but he can hire the boy as his office boy and the girl, Sylvia, as his secretary. The girl's father tries in vain to do business with the young man, and is both offended and pleased to find his own (formerly spoiled) daughter Sylvia working as a humble secretary. The young man is not satisfied yet. He wants to overtake the tycoon's business in sales. One day he is tipped off that a bypass is going to be built around the city. He has the opportunity to buy the best sites before the tycoon hears the news. However, one of his disgruntled employees sells the secret to the tycoon who bids higher for the sites and wins. The young man sees his secretary with the tycoon and infers that she must be the spy. She leaves furious, confessing her true identity: she is the daughter of the tycoon. The young man thinks that he is ruined, but the phone rings: plans have changed and the bypass shall not be built after all. The young man obtains the old sites from the tycoon, who thinks he is getting rid of rubbish and only later realizes that he has been outsmarted again. e Crown vs. Stevens (1936). A young man, Chris, shows his fiance the ring that he wants to buy for her. He hasn't paid for it yet but she refuses to relinquish it. The young man works for a cold-hearted miser who has no intention of giving him a raise. To make matters worse the girlfriend calls him that she's dumping him for another young man and she is not returning the ring. The young man visits the money lender who owns the ring and tells him that he can't pay. This is another heartless individual who gives him 24 hours to find the money. Not knowing what to do, the young man has no choice but to return to the money lender and beg for mercy. He finds the old man shot dead. The book with that records all his debtors is burning in the fireplace, and the young man finds a woman hiding behind the drapes with a gun in her hand. She threatens to kill him if he calls the police and flees. The young man's debt disappears in the fire, so he truly has not motivation to be sorry, and he knows that he would be fired if his boss heard that he was involved in such a sordid story.
The following day at work his boss sends him to his house to fetch a book. The young man is shocked to find that the killer is no less than his boss' wife. She was blackmailed by the money lender who demanded sexual favors in exchange for her debts. She used a gun to defend herself and claims that the shot that killed the money lender was an accident.
His ex girlfriend calls that the other gentleman dumped her and she would like to come back to him. Chris has no intention of taking her back though. On the other hand Chris goes out with one of the customers, a young lady who is an interior decorator, Molly. In her office Chris sees an object that he had seen on the money lender's desk when he was murdered.
His boss' wife, Doris, is fed up with the lifestyle of a housewife, especially since her husband doesn't give her enough money to spend. One night she comes home drunk after partying with her friends and he forbids her to go out ever again. When the boss gets sick, Chris is left in charge of the store. Doris visits him and tells him that she intends to take her stressed husband on a cruise, and she inquires about how much the business is worth. She tells Chris that her husband is very sick, but another employee saw him in good health.
Back at home Doris is confronted by her husband who read in the paper that they found the gun of the murder (she threw it from a bridge but it fell on a boat) and the description matches her own gun. She accuses the maid of having stolen it from her drawer. The husband insists that they must report the theft at the police. She tries to kill him by giving him sleeping pills and then leaving him asleep in the garage with the car's engine running os he would asphyxiate. Luckily. Chris and Molly come to the house and hear the noise. They pull the body out just when the police are arriving. Assuming that he husband is dead, Doris tells the police that she didn't saw him get into the garage. But the husband is recovering. She realizes she is lost. She lights a cigarette and follows the police in a defiant attitude.

Soltanto nel 1938 ottenne di poter dirigere un suo soggetto Edge Of The World (1938), un semi-documentario della Flaherty che esibiva già un acceso simbolismo visivo e allusioni mistiche.

A native takes an urban couple to an island in the north of Britain, that the Romans named "Ultima Thule". The island is now deserted, but he remembers when it was alive just ten years earlier, when the whole community would meet at church on sundays. A young man, Robbie, tells his best friend Andrew and his twin sister Ruth (who are engaged) that he intends to leave the island. They disagree, as thus his father Peter. The two young men argue about it, as Robbie's departure would be a blow to the whole community (not many young men left) and decide to settle the argument by racing to the top of a steep and slippery cliff. Andrew wins, and Robbie falls from the cliff to his death. After the funeral, life is not the same. Neither Peter nor Ruth can forget for as long as Andrew is there. So Andrew decides that it is best to leave the island. Ironically, it is him the first to "evacuate". Andrew's father James realizes that Robbie was right: they may survive another winter, but eventually they will have to leave the island. But Peter is stubborn. The two elders are reunited when Ruth reveals that she is pregnant with Andrew's child. The situation of the island is getting desperate. When Andrew finally hears of his child and comes back to take care of the baby and the mother, Peter finally accepts to beg the mainland for help evacuating the island. But before he has to climb one last time the very same cliff where his son Robbie died, and dies himself when the rope fails. Peter never left the island, after all.
The dramatic landscape of the cliffs of Scotland and of restless surfs is the real protagonist. The microcosm of the rural community is sketched only superficially against the backdrop of the Greek drama that envelops it.
Diresse poi due thriller alla Hitchcock con Conrad Veidt, il primo Spy in Black (1939). Il secondo thriller e` Contraband (1940), che segnarono l'inizio di una proficua collaborazione con l'ungherese Emeric Pressburger, dapprima per film bellico-propagandisti, fra i quali 49th Parallel (1941), their first collaboration with editor David Lean, e During World War II, when a German submarine is destroyed by Canadian bombers off the coast of Canada (already at war against Germany), a group of Germans (who obviously speak perfect English) set on a desperate trekk across Canada towards the USA, which is still a neutral country. They eventually reach a tiny Inuit village and meet a playful French Canadian trapper (Lawrence Olivier) and his friend. The Germans have a map of the area that was made by a spy disguised as a missionary. The trappers try to rebel but one (Olivier) is killed. The Germans hear a plane land and decide to hijack it. They have to kill the crew and many inuits. Then they cannot take off because the plane is overloaded. The engineer who is flying the plan asks the commander to get rid of something. The inuits help out by killing one of them thus making the plane light enough to take off. The plane crashes into a lake and the good engineer dies after saving his comrades. The fanatical nazist Hirth becomes the new leader of the group of fugitives. The four survivors reach a Hutterite camp of German refugees led by a good man named Peter, who welcomes them and gives them a place to stay. They pretend to mix with the community, but during a town meeting Hirth tries to convert this community to nazism with a Hitler-style speech. Peter rejects them. A girl who believed in him is tearful. One of the four Germans is moved by the spirit of the community. Deemed a traitor by Hirth, he is executed in a field before the surviving three march out of the town. The odyssey continues across Canada, using all sorts of transportation and never hesitating to murder people along the way. They happen on a meeting in which a mounted guard describes the fugitives to the crowd. One panics and is arrested. The other two run. They meet a writer who is researching Indian folklore in a remote location by a paradisiac lake. He talks too much and ends up provoking the Germans into an anti-intellectual lecture. Hirth proudly tells him who they are. The writer, disgusted, outsmarts them and then, helped by three friends, braves the four bullets of one of them to capture him. The lone Hirth is now on the run, hunted by the whole country. In Germany, the nazists are proud of the saga of the lone hero fighting against millions of enemies. Hirth is already at the other side of the country, on a train bound for the USA. On the train Hirth meets a Canadian army deserter. Hirth steals his uniform to sneak through customs into the safery of neutral USA. Hirth makes the same mistake again: he gives a lecture on the greatness of nazism that arouses the deserter's national pride. The moment they reach the USA border, Hirth surrenders to the USA guards and asks to be taken to the German embassy as the law commands. The Canadian deserter begs them to break the law and send the nazist back to Canada, where he can be arrested. The guards find some minor violations to send him back to Canada.
The story is not only propagandistic, but also tedious and overlong. As it is often the case with Powell, the main drawback of the film is the acting: Powell manages to make even Lawrence Olivier look like a bad actor.
The Life And Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), lunga e mesta rievocazione del costume inglese attraverso la carriera di due cavallereschi ufficiali nemici, un inglese attaccato all'etica del passato e sconfitto nella vita e un tedesco reale che per sfuggire al nazismo chiederà asilo nel Regno Unito, An officer receives the order that an exercise is planned to start at midnight. He decides to make it even more realistic by starting the war before it is declared, exactly the way the enemy would start it. He has to hurry up because a young attractive woman is speeding to alert the command. The young officer thus captures the old major general while he is in the sauna. This infuriates the major general Clive who pulls the young officer in the pool. This reminds him of how he started as a young officer himself. On a mission to Germany, Clive met the independent and aggressive Edith, an English teacher working in Germany who has informed him of German propaganda against the British war against the Boers. As Clive and Edith are dining at a fancy restaurant, the leading man of the anti-British propaganda walks in. This colonel Konitz is an old acquaitance of Clive. They exchange insults. Eventually the brawl escalates and Clive loses his temper and insults the whole imperial German army. The army demands satisfaction: a duel with an officer, Theo, chosen to represent the German army. The duel has no winner: they both get wounded. For diplomatic reasons, the politicians pretend that it was fought over Edith's love. The two soldiers eventually meet and, despite the language difficulties, come to respect and like each other. One day Theo tells him that he loves Edith, and is ready to fight another duel over her. Instead, Clive is happy for them. The three part promising to remain best friends.
During World War II the middle-aged Clive and Theo fight on different sides. One day, hungry, he walks into a convent to get dinner and sees a pretty nurse. He tracks her down after the war and proposes to her, Barbara, despite being twice her age. The war has ended, but Clive learns of Theo being a war prisoner still held in a British camp. Clive finds him but Theo refuses to talk to him. Freed, Theo calls Clive to apologize. Clive rushes to meet him and invites him to dinner with several British military leaders. Everybody on the British side wishes Germany the best and tries to cheer up Clive.
Twenty years later Clive is a widow and a retired general. Theo is applying for refugee status in Britain because he disagrees with nazism. Theo is also a widow. Clive comes to the rescue of Theo. It is also time for Clive to confess to Theo that he was in love with Edith, and that he fell in love with Barbara because she looked so much like Edith. Clive has his young driver, Angela, take Theo home, and Theo realizes that Angela too looks a lot like Edith: Clive is still in love with Edith, the big love of his wife. Clive has been recalled for Second World War, but the command decides that he is too old and his methods are antiquated. Theo convinces him to become the general of the "home guard", meant to defend Britain from a possible nazi invasion. Clive accepts enthusiastically and becomes a national figure.
One day Clive has the idea to simulate a nazist invasion of Britain. That is the exercise that is about to begin at midnight. The young officer to lead the "enemy" is his driver Angela's boyfriend. She, upon hearing what her boyfriend has in mind, rushes towards the general's headquarters to warn him. She is the young woman of the first scene, and her boyfriend is the young officer of the first scene, who has captured Clive in the sauna. Theo comes to console the old defeated general. But the general is the first to pay tribute to the victorious young officer.
per poi scivolare in preziosismi cromatici di supporto a fantasie morbose, erotiche come in Black Narcissus (1947), Based on the 1939 novel by Rumer Godden, dove i torbidi rapporti fra un gruppo di suore isolate sulle cime dell'Himalaya porta una novizia al suicidio, A young nun, Sister Clodagh, is appointed to run a project in a remote village of the Himalayas: to build a Anglican school and a hospital. She will thus become the youngest sister superior of the order. Dean, the English agent of the Indian owner, writes a letter to introduce her to the beauty and the mystery of the place. The "palace" that has to be turned into a school and a hospital is a lavishly decorated old brothel, swept by the wind day and night and surrounded by very green scenery. While in England the team of nuns (Clodagh, Sister Briony, Sister "Honey" Blanche, Sister Philippa, Sister "Lemonade" Ruth) prepare for the trip, at the village in the mountains the owner announces the deal to the old female caretaker Ayah who looks like a shaman (and does not like the idea at all). When the nuns arrive, they meet Ayah and an English-speaking child, Joseph Anthony, who helps them to communicate with the other children. They are also met by Dean, who is skeptic about the chances of their mission and about the villagers' acceptance of modern medicine. He brings her an orphaned teenage girl, Kanchi, who has a bad reputation in the village because she keeps following him. One day the "Young General", the son of the owner, arrives: he wishes to be educated in their school, despite the fact that it is meant to be a school for children and women only. He immediately attracts Kanchi, who stages a bee-like dance around the palace. Dean tells Clodagh the story of the holy man who spends all his time, day in and day out, sitting and staring at the sky without uttering a word. During a school day Ruth smells the scent of a handkerchief worn by the Young General, which is called "black narcissus". She says she doesn't like scent at all. On Christmas night Clodagh, who is reminiscing about her teenage years when someone proposed to her, is scandalized to find out that Dean showed up drunk. Later she reprieved Ruth who is obviously falling in love with Dean. Ruth has a satanic look as she listens to her Sister Superior. Spring comes. Ayah is flogging Kanchi for stealing. The Young General comes to Kanchi's rescue, and she gets up (for a second contemplating the man's crotch as she is still on her knees) and hugs him. Clodagh is shocked to find out that Sister Philippa has planted only flowers, no vegetables. Philippa, whose faith has been wavering, asks to return home. Briony refuses to cure a baby who is dying because she remembers what Dean told them: if one baby dies, the whole village will think that they kill him. But Blanche can't resist and gives the mother some medicines. The following day nobody comes to school. Joseph Anthony tells them that the baby died and, as Dean predicted, everybody is blaming the nuns for the death. Even the Young General and Kanchi have disappeared. Ayah even refuses to bring a message to the village: it is just too dangerous. The nuns are frightened (although Ruth seems more excited than afraid) and call Dean for help. Ruth eavesdrops on Clodagh telling Dean how she was deserted by her fiance and had to get away from her native village. Clodagh confides to Dean that she never thought of that young man until the first day she walked into the palace, and that now she is tormented again. And she has just learned that Ruth is leaving the order. Dean's advice tells her to leave the place as soon as possible, as if the place was cursed. At night the villagers perform some ritual banging their drums. Clodagh is still awake. She walks around the palace like a ghost. She knocks at Ruth's door: Ruth comes out wearing a sexy red dress. Ruth runs to Dean's house to tell him how fond she is of him, but Dean rudely rejects her. He might be hadnsome but he seems to have no sexual appetite. After fainting and recovering, Ruth wakes up with a demonic look in her eyes. She walks back to the palace and, presumably jealous, attacks Clodagh who is ringing the bell after praying alone in the dark. Ruth walks like a zombie with eyes that erupt flames. The two fight by the edge of the abyss. Ruth falls and dies.
This is the last straw. Defeated, Clodagh decides to shut down the place and return home. She asks Dean to look after the grave and says goodbye. It starts raining.
The film was shot entirely in the studio. Despite the (few) experimental touches and the (mild) erotic overtones, there is something truly annoying about the acting, the plot and the exotic setting.
sentimentali-horror in I Know Where I'm Going (1945), another showcase of inventive photography (although not a particularly engaging story, mostly focusing in depicting the population and the landscape), Joan grows up as a child and as a young woman with a reputation for always getting what she wants. One day she has a drink with her father, also her bank manager, and announces her engagement to Robert, a wealthy lord of her father's age. She is on her way to the lord's mansion on a distant island, a long journey. She takes a train and then a boat and then a taxi. However, she cannot complete the journey because of bad weather and gets stranded in a small village. Used to get what she wants, she waits in vain for the boat that would take her across to the island. Eventually, she accepts the invitation of a fellow traveler, a naval officer, Torquil, to spend the night at the nearby house of a friend of the officer, a lively woman, Katrina, whose husband is away. It turns out the naval officer is also the landlord of the land that Robert is renting. The wind continues to make boat travel impossible. Torquil takes Joan for a tour of the village. Joan ventures into a dilapidated castle that Torquil refuses to enter on account of an ancient curse on his family. The wind does not abate. She is able to talk over the radio with Robert, who sends her to meet an aristocratic couple who lives in a nearby castle. Robert's pretentious friends contrast with the simple people of the village. Torquil is her guide through this universe that continuously surprises her. She is less and less comfortable with Torquil and one day just decides to bribe a young man who needs money. The young man accepts to try the sailing despite the gale. Torquil tries in vain to stop her. Everybody thinks that it is suicide, but the stubborn woman won't listen to people who lived in that village all their life. Then Torquil has no choice but to board the boat himself and help out. The storm almost kills them and she loses her luggage. A vortex almost sucks them underwater. But they survive and manage to return safely to the village. She is touched by the events. When the storm finally fades away, a boat comes to get her. Before departing she asks Torquil to kiss her. He does so and then ventures into the forbidden castle: a long time ago a bride fled her husband, but her husband hunted her and her lover and eventually killed them in that castle. The curse that the woman cast on the descendants of her husband was that if they ever entered the castle they would never be free again. But in this case the curse means that Torquil gets married to Joan because she does not board the boat and instead runs to him in the haunted castle. esoteriche come in Tales of Hoffman (1951), a faithful adaptation of Jacques Offenbach's fantasy opera, bellico-spionistiche come Contraband, Life And Death of Colonel Blimp (1942), tragedia di un patriota ridicolo, favolistico e surreale, Canterbury Tale (1944), a war movie without any battle scenes, a pastoral interlude that is also a spiritual parable about the rural roots of the British civilization, It is, however, a rather slow film with too many detours. The narrating voice reads from Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales". 600 years later the world is engulged in World War II. One night the station master of a small town near Canterbury puts together British soldier Peter (who is moving to a military camp outside town), USA soldier Bob (who got off at the wrong station) and a young woman, Alison, who is relocating there because she got a job in a farm. The three leave the station for a hotel but Alison is soon victim of a maniac who throws glue on people and then runs away. Two cops search the town hall, where the man ran into, but only find the judge, Thomas, still at work. Thomas happens to be the owner of the farm where Alison will work. Thomas is not happy to see that his request for help at the farm has been answered with a girl: he was hoping in a man. Thomas refuses to hire her. Alison chats with the barman and reveals that several years earlier she vacationed in the town with her fiance, an archeologist. She asks Bob to stay one more day to help her investigate Thomas, after she discovered that he hides an old uniform similar to the one used by the glue man. A good old man accepts to hire Alison in another farm. Alison swears to find the glue man. The following day Bob rides a cart with Alison and tells her that he is disappointed in his girlfriend, who never writes. Then she reveals that her fiance is missing in action, probably dead. Bob gets off the cart and Alison continues alone through the country. She meets Peter and his soldiers. Peter flirts with her. Alison, Peter and Bob attend a lecture by Thomas: it's about the "pilgrim's road" that goes through that village and that so many pilgrims used to get to Canterbury's cathedral. Bob solves the mystery of the glue man: there was no light in Thomas' office when the attack occurred, but Thomas was in office minutes later. Therefore Thomas must be the glue man. Alison is puzzled as to what could be his motive. Bob meets a group of children in a boat who are playing war games. He enlists the children to investigate who has been buying glue at the grocery stores around there. In the meantime Alison interviews all the previous victims of the glue-man to find out if there is a pattern in the attacks. The trio of amateur sleuths cannot come up with an explanation until Peter realizes that those are the evenings when Thomas was on duty at city hall. Later the children bring the final proof: Thomas purchased the recipes to make the glue. Alison takes a stroll alone in the country and hears the sounds and the voices of the pilgrims who travelled through it. She meets Thomas who is there just to enjoy the silence. They chat and realize that they have in common their fondness for the country. When they hear Bob and Peter approaching, Thomas and Alison both hide. Bob feels that the place is healing his homesickness and his longing for his girl. Thomas and Alison overhear the boys discuss Thomas as the glue man. The following day the trio takes the train to Canterbury. Peter is determined to report Thomas to the train station. Thomas boards the train and sits next to them. He candidly admits that he is the glue man and reveals his motive: when the army set up a military camp nearby, he thought he had a chance to educate the soldiers to the inspirational history of that place, but instead the soldiers went out on dates with the girls. The glue attacks were meant to scare the girls so that they would not go out, and, incidentally, remain faithful to their boyfriends who were fighting the war. They arrive in Canterbury and each goes her or his way. Peter looks for the police chief and is told that he is at the cathedral. At the cathedral he meets the organist, who allows him to play the organ (Peter used to be an organ player). Alison wanders through the streets of the city, devastated by the bombings. She finds the place where her fiance used to stay, and finds his clothes. An old friend finds her there and tells her that her fiance is alive: they have been trying to locate her for two weeks. Bob has an appointment with a fellow soldier, who brings him good news too: his girlfriend's letters. She has been writing from Australia, where she volunteers. Peter is still playing the organ when they all enter the cathedral. The soldiers who are about to leave for the front are there too. So is the police chief, but Peter keeps playing the organ instead of reporting Thomas. Just like the pilgrims of 600 years earlier, they all receive a miracle from their pilgrimage. And they all intone the hymn that Peter is playing. operette-balletti come Rosalinda (1955), fantastiche come in Red Shoes (1948), uno spaccato di vita di teatro, fra ambizioni, delusioni e amori A theater opens the doors and a frantic crowd of young people rushes in. They are students eager to hear the new compositions of their professor for a famous ballet company. As the music begins, though, one of the students, Julian, realizes that the orchestra is playing some of his own music, and his fellow students agree. In the balcony a countess Isabel invites the professor to a party and asks him to take the ballet impresario, Boris, with him. She then nods to a young woman, Vicky. The students leave the theater disgusted. At the countess' party Boris the ballet impresario learns the real purpose of the woman: to introduce him to her niece Vicky, who dreams of becoming a dancer. The ballet impresario meets Vicky without knowing who she is and makes nasty remarks that he regrets when she reveals who she is. He invites her for an audition.
The following day Julian the student writes a letter to the ballet impresario accusing his professor of theft. Boris advises him to forget the whole matter and offers him a job as coach of the orchestra, that Julian accepts enthusiastically.
So both Julian and Vicky, unbeknownst to each other, begin their careers on the same day in the same theater. Boris quickly realizes the talent of both and takes them with him on a European tour. During the tour Boris has the idea to produce a ballet for Vicky, and puts Julian in charge of the music. The ballet, "The Red Shoes", will be based around a fairy tale in which a girl is magically turned into a great dancer by some red shoes, except that the shoes keep dancing and dancing, and she dies of dancing.
The premiere is a triumph. The ballet is shown in a lengthy (17-minute) musical sequence and turns into a surreal fantasy, a chromatic symphony of architectural constructs in a universe in which physics ceases to work.
The impresario decides to invest in the new ballerina. He organizes tours all over the world and a new repertory of ballets for her. But one night he learns from the crew that Vicky has fallen in love with Julian. It happened under his nose but he never suspected it. Furious, he fires Julian. Vicky has no choice but quit, even though she is aware that she owes him everything. Boris is kind enough to severe their contract so that Vicky can dance for other ballets. He only keeps the exclusive on Julian's music for "The Red Shoes".
Time goes by. Julian is devoting himself to his first opera, and Vicky's dancing career has suffered from it. Boris approaches her and offers her to return to the ballet, precisely with "Red Shoes". She cannot resist. On the same night both Vicky's "Red Shoes" and Julian's opera are about to debut. However, Julian deserts his orchestra to travel to Vicky's dressing room and begs her to leave with him. She agonizes, torn between love for her husband and love for the ballet. Julian leaves alone, while Boris keeps whispering in Vicky's ears like the devil who wants to take her life away. She puts the red shoes on and they take them away, but not towards the stage: towards the railway station, where Julian is about to board a train. She runs down the stairs but then jumps to her death under the train that is arriving.
Devastated, Boris appears on stage and announces that Vicky is dead but they are still going to perform the ballet.
Vicky died in Julian's arms and her last words were for him to take off the shoes.
Boris is an enigmatic character. He never tries to have a sexual relationship with Vicky, but then reacts furiously to her engagement to Julian. What has been betrayed is her absolute loyalty to art. Or to business. Or to both, because Boris represents both. He represents both the austere purity of the artistic endeavour and the corrupt turpitude of the business world. They both demand absolute loyalty. He tells Vicky that a woman in love can never become a great dancer, as if the only emotion allowed to a great dancer is her devotion to dancing. After all, Boris himself is single and doesn't seem to have any interest in women.

A Matter Of Life And Death (1946), capolavoro metafisico che fonde Capra, Zubitsch, Berkeley, l'assurdo e Dante, capolavoro scenografico e visuale.

Il film inizia a colori molto vividi. Peter Carter (interpretato da Niven) e` il capitano di uno squadrone aereo britannico che sta tornando da un'incursione sulla Germania. Il suo aereo ha preso fuoco e il suo braccio destro, l'amico Bob, e` morto ai suoi piedi. Peter afferra il microfono e grida alla base che ha deciso di gettarsi dall'aereo, anche se non ha piu` il paracadute: preferisce lo schianto a morire bruciato. Alla base gli risponde una donna americana, June, che poco a poco si lascia trasportare dal suo disperato appello a ricevere un'ultima parola di conforto da lei. Nella concitazione di quell'ultima conversazione, mentre le chiede di mandare un ultimo telegramma alla madre, Peter dice di amarla e lei scoppia a piangere quando la trasmissione s'interrompe. Peter salta dall'aereo. Sulla Manica c'e` una fitta nebbia. Quando si dirada sulla spiaggia giace un corpo inanimato.
Il film cambia in bianco e nero. In una scenografia costruttivista, dove tutto e` monumentale e geometrico, una giovane freddissima accoglie i caduti e li invita a firmare il registro delle presenze (satira: quando arriva un gruppo di americani, per prima cosa vanno alla macchinetta della Coca Cola). Altre ragazze li misurano e forniscono poi loro le ali da angelo. Un nuovo arrivato, Bob, aspetta da ore che si faccia vivo il suo amico e capitano, Peter. La ragazza gli dice che non puo` aspettare oltre, ma Bob e` convinto che Peter sia morto.
A colori. Peter si riprende sulla spiaggia. E` incolume. Si mette a camminare. La prima cosa che incontra e` un cartello che dice "KEEP OUT" e, da buon ufficiale britannico, gli obbedisce e torna indietro. Continua a camminare fra le dune finche` incontra un pastorello nudo, che gli indica la strada. Vede una ciclista e intuisce subito che si tratti dell'americana. Le corre incontro, si abbracciano e baciano. Tutta la sequenza e` allegorica.
Bianco e nero. In paradiso piano piano si fa largo l'ipotesi che il conducente/ messaggero, un francese ghigliottinato durante la rivoluzione, si sia dimenticato un morto sulla Terra. I conti non tornano. La direttrice, altra donna frigida come un robot, gli ordina di tornare sulla Terra a prenderlo. Bob da al francese un messaggio per Peter.
A colori. Peter e la donna stanno amoreggiando in un boschetto. Il tempo si ferma di colpo. Nulla si muove. A Peter appare il francese, vestito in abiti del Settecento, un personaggio ambiguo ed effeminato, che si commuove davanti all'amore ma al tempo stesso vuole portare a termine la sua missione. Per prima cosa gli da il messaggio di Bob, che convince Peter ad ascoltarlo. Poi gli spiega l'accaduto e gli chiede di seguirlo al "centro di addestramento" dell'aldila'. Peter si oppone: ieri era pronto a morire, ma oggi si e` innamorato. Non e` colpa sua se il messaggero lo ha dimenticato quando era il momento giusto. Il francese scompare e il tempo riprende. June gli dice di non essersi mai addormentata. Peter le racconta la visione che ha avuto.
June va a trovare il dottore del villaggio, un erudito che si diletta a guardare la vita del villaggio dalla sua "camera obscura", una sorta di stanza-cannocchiale che proietta il mondo su un tavolo. June gli chiede di visitare Peter. Il dottore riconosce i sintomi di un'allucinazione e accetta.
In una caserma stanno preparando una rappresentazione di "A midsummer night's dream". Peter e June giocano a scacchi nell'atrio. Arriva il dottore, che rivela a June di aver scoperto in Peter un promettente poeta. Tutto allegorico.
Il dottore lo interroga ed e` talmente interessato al suo caso che lo invita a stare a casa sua, con la speranza di poter assistere a una di queste visioni. Mentre il dottore e June giocano a ping pong (altra allegoria), Peter ha un'altra visione: il messaggero ricompare e il tempo si arresta. Peter tenta invano di suonare un campanello: il dottore e June sono immobili come statue di marmo. Il messaggero gli da una buona notizia: il Paradiso ha deciso di consentirgli un appello. Ha tre giorni per preparare la sua difesa e scegliere l'uomo che gli fara` da avvocato. La brutta notizia e` che il procuratore d'accusa sara` un americano, il primo americano che venne ucciso dagli inglesi durante la guerra di indipendenza. Peter puo' scegliere qualunque personaggio famoso del passato come avvocato difensore. Il messaggero gli chiede in prestito il libro sugli scacchi che stava leggendo: anche lui e` un appassionato di scacchi (altra allegoria).
Il messaggero scompare, squilla il campanello, June e il dottore accorrono. Il dottore chiede a un celebre neurologo di operare Peter. A suo avviso e' urgente, perche' Peter e` convinto di avere soltanto poche ore prima del giudizio finale.
Bianco e nero. Una grande scalinata che sale verso il Cielo, contornata dalle statue dei grandi dell'umanita'. Il francese e Peter dibattono chi prendere come avvocato difensore: Socrate? Platone? ...? Nessuno di loro e` in grado di difendere un uomo del Novecento. La scalinata sta pero` portando Peter verso il Paradiso. Peter se ne accorge, sospetta che il francese gli abbia teso una trappola e scappa a precipizio.
Si risveglia sudatissimo fra le braccia di June. Il telefono non funziona. Il dottore salta sulla moto per andare a chiamare un'ambulanza. Durante il tragitto si scontra proprio con l'ambulanza e muore. L'ambulanza arriva a prendere Peter. Peter intuisce che il dottore e` morto. Nella camera operatoria il neurologo inizia l'operazione.
Bianco e nero. Scenografia colossale. Migliaia di persone che si recano al processo, vestite nelle fogge di tutti i tempi e tutti i paesi. Peter ha scelto il dottore come avvocato difensore. Il dottore e` ancora vestito con la tuta da moto e Bob con l'uniforme da aviatore.
Colori. L'operazione e` in corso, il cuore di Peter sembra cedere. June si volta verso la finestra e piange. Piange anche quando il messaggero, il dottore, Peter e Bob compaiono e il tempo si e` fermato. Il messaggero raccoglie una lacrima su una rosa e si propone di portarla al processo come prova per la difesa.
Bianco e nero. L'arena dove si tiene il processo e` stipata di centinaia e centinaia di caduti di tutte le guerre. Entra il giudice, tutti si alzano in piedi. Su una roccia compare il procuratore, vestito negli abiti del Settecento americano. La sua arringa e` un'arringa contro i britannici, accusati di rappresentare il declino dell'umanita'. Per dimostrargli il declino morale degli americani il dottore accende la radio e gli fa ascoltare un pezzo di blues. La giuria e` tutta antibritannica: un indiano, un francese, un irlandese... Tutti nutrono qualche astio per gli inglesi. Il dottore chiede una giuria di americani. Il giudice gliela accorda. Sul palco salgono un francese, un indiano, un irlandese... tutti cittadini americani. A questo punto il dottore chiede di usare June come teste. Giudice e giurati li seguono sulla scalinata, che questa volta scende verso la Terra. Arrivati nella camera operatoria, richiamano in vita June. Per dimostrare la sua teoria, il dottore chiede a June di sacrificare la propria vita per salvare quella di Peter. June non esita e salta sulla scalinata, che comincia a salire verso il Paradiso. L'amore piega la fredda burocraticita` del giudice, e Peter vince la sua causa. Mentre la scalinata riprende a salire senza i due giovani innamorati, il messaggero mette il libro sugli scacchi in tasca a Peter.
Colori. L'operazione e` riuscita. Peter e` vivo e June e` con lui.
Il film e` pervaso di un umorismo al limite dell'irreverenza verso tutti i paesi vincitori della guerra. I francesi sono boriosi e nazionalisti, gli americani volgari e bonaccioni, gli inglesi pedanti e complicati.
Il film e` una potente allegoria sulla vita terrena e il suo possibile riflesso nell'aldila'. A tenere in vita Niven contro i piani di dio e` la sua voglia di vivere. A farlo trionfare contro dio e` l'amore per una donna. Niven riesce a diventare un caso tanto sulla Terra quanto in Cielo, a unire questi due casi in uno solo, a metterli entrambi nelle mani dello stesso uomo (il dottore) e a vincerli vincendo il piu` difficile, quello in Cielo, tramite l'intervento dell'amata, ovvero tramite la Metafisica. Ben piu` difficile sarebbe stato vincere quello sulla Terra, dove conta soltanto la scienza razionale, ovvero la Medicina.
E` certamente irriverente il fatto che il Paradiso venga presentato come una specie di campo di concentramento, gestito da fanciulle molto belle, ma completamente prive di emozioni. E` eretico il fatto che Peter faccia di tutto per evitare il Paradiso.
Il tema del film e` quello di fondere medico e metafisico. Il tema visionario di trasportare il soprannaturale nella vita quotidiana ricorre nella letteratura inglese, da John Bunyan al "A midsummer night's dream". La scala biblica di Giacobbe diventa una scala mobile fra la Terra e il Paradiso, costellata delle statue dei grandi uomini che hanno tentato di chiudere quella distanza con il loro intelletto.
Il cinema di Powell e di Pressburger adotta le tecniche più moderne dell'epoca e scaturisce da una singolare fusione di culture (anglosassone, mitteleuropea, e hollywoodiana).

Pursuit Of The Graf Spee (1957) is set in World War II.

Separatosi dal socio nel 1957, dopo I'll Met By Moonlight, Powell diresse il suo capolavoro, Peeping Tom (1960), un horror film (scritto da Leo Marks) con riflessioni d'avanguardia di meta-cinema e con un taglio psicanalitico che infondono alla suspense varie sfumature, un incrocio fra Rear Window di Hitchcock e M di Lang, filmato con colori che rasentano il cartone animato.

In the dark streets of the city a mysterious man films his encounter with a prostitute, as he follows her to the flat and she takes her clothes off. We see the scene from the viewpoint of his videocamera. He keeps filming as she gets scared and then screams: he kills her. At home he watches the film, calmly seated on a chair. The following day he is out in the street filming the police investigation. We see his face: he looks like a respectable young man, Mark. Later he walks into a store that sells magazines and newspapers, but also erotic pictures. It turns out Mark is the photographer who produces those pictures in a "studio" upstairs. There is a new sexy girl waiting for him. Her face is beautiful on one side, but deformed on the other side. Mark is fascinated by the girl and can't resist filming her with his videocamera instead of taking photos of her.
Mark walks into his house and is stopped by the girl who lives downstairs, Helen, who is throwing her birthday party and invites him to join them. Mark is so shy he is almost shaking. He apologizes but he has work to do. It turns out the "work" consists in watching his perverted video of the murdered prostitute. Helen is a kind soul and curious about the mysterious neighbor, so she brings him a slice of the cake and gets herself invited inside. Helen thought that Mark was a poor tenant: instead, it turns out that Mark owns the house, inherited when his father died, and she is one of his tenants. Mark introduces himself as an aspiring director and Helen asks to see one of her films. Mark picks a video made by his father when he was a child. It shows cruel psychological experiments that his father was carrying out while Mark was asleep. Mark tries to film Helen as she is watching his film but she, distressed by the scenes, stops him. The film shows his mother's death, and his father's second marriage (shortly thereafter) to a young woman. It finally shows his father giving Mark a present: a videocamera. Mark's father was obsessed with the topic of fear, and learned a lot from his child's reactions. Helen is shocked that Mark's father performed cruel experiments on his own son.
After an exhausting day at work, with a director who can't be satisfied with an actress' performance, Mark ask a pretty and lively coworker, Vivian, for a date. They are to secretely meet on stage after everybody has left, so he can film her. After playing with her for a while, he grabs his videocamera and advances towards her. The videocamera has been equipped with a blade that can kill while he is filming the terror and the agony of the victim. He hides the corpse in a trunk.
Back home he is asked by Helen for advice. She is an amateur writer whose first book for children should include photos, and he volunteers to help her for free.
The following day on the set someone opens the trunk and discovers the corpse. Mark is ready with the videocamera to film the look of terror on the actress' face before she faints. He then films the police as they investigate. After being interviewed (he candidly tells the inspector that he is making a documentary), Mark climbs to the roof in order to film the police officers as they inspect the corpse. He can hear the inspector mention that the two murders are related, but he doesn't seems worried about what the police thinks and does.
Helen lives with her blind and alcoholic mother. Her mother senses that something is wrong with Mark. She can feel Mark watching them. Mark takes Helen out on a date. She is the only person who has tried to breach his privacy, and he seems grateful, or at least released of his obsessions. He even accepts to leave the camera home. They have a relaxed evening. Back at home she plays with the camera as if she wanted to film herself, but Mark abruptly takes the camera away from her: he doesn't want the camera to film her (to kill her). In his room he is welcomed by Helen's mother, who is curious about what are the films he watches every night: she can hear him from downstairs ("The blind always live in the rooms they live under"). He turns on the projector, showing the latest murder. He is desperate because he made a mistake and spoiled the "scene". She cannot see and he simply tells her that now he has to find another "opportunity". Then he realizes that the opportunity lies right in front of him, and it's the easiest of them all: a blind woman who cannot escape. She is instinctively scared. He grabs the camera and unhooks the blade, but then he cannot carry out the murder. He takes the woman downstairs, who, disturbed by his odd behavior, forbids him to see Helen again.
At work the police inspector is watching the film crew. He sees Mark talk to a psychiatrist about voyeurism and has him followed by an undercover policeman. Mark has a plan to heal himself. The policeman follows him to the store where he takes the erotic pictures. Mark walks upstairs and films the policeman (therefore he knows he is being followed) before pointing the camera to his usual erotic model...
In the meantime Helen is looking for Mark and, not finding him, kills the time watching one of his films: she is terrified by what she sees. Mark, returning for his deadly mission, walks in and surprises her. He confesses. He also makes the connection between the cruelty he experienced as a child and his obsession as an adult: he self-psychoanalyzes. He shows Helen how he killed all those women whom he filmed. He also equipped the camera with a mirror so that the victim could see her own terror while he killed her.
The store owner has found the body of the erotic model and called the police. The inspector has made the association and knows that Mark is the murderer: but maybe that is precisely what Mark was trying to achieve by committing such an obvious murder, especially if he knew that he was being followed. Maybe that is precisely the therapy he wanted.
Mark hears the sirens of the police cars and runs to the window to film their arrival. Then he points the camera to himself and pulls out the blade and commits suicide, while Helen (who clearly really loved him) is crying powerless.
Una tragedia della memoria; la vittima diventa carnefice di altre creature inermi attraverso l'oggetto che gli permette di rivivere le torture subite durante l'infanzia: la macchina da presa.

49th parallel: epica-antinazista; dei nazisti in fuga nel Canada sfogano la loro malvagità su tutti coloro che incontrano

Colonel Blimp (1943): satira del patriottismo

A Canterbury tale (1944)

I know where I'm going (1945)

A matter of life and death (1946): grottesco, sul patriottismo

Black narcissus (1947): sessualità = religiosità ascetica

Red shoes (1948): balletto

Small back room (1949): espressionista

Tales of Hoffman (1951): opera

Rosalinda (1956): operetta di Strauss con scenografie espressioniste

Battle of river Plate (1956)

Luna de miel (1961)

Queen's guards (1961)

Powell directed his last films in Australia: the mildly amusing They're a Weird Mob (1966) and the utterly mediocre Age Of Consent (1969), adapted from the 1935 novel by Norman Lindsay.

(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )