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Michael Powell si fece le ossa negli anni '20 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.
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
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
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,
Spy in Black (1939) e soprattutto
che segnarono l'inizio di una proficua collaborazione con l'ungherese
49th Parallel (1941) was their first collaboration with editor David Lean.
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.
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
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.
One Of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1942) is another war movie and equally disappointing.
The Life And Death of Colonel Blimp (1943),
lunga e mesta rievocazione del costume inglese attraverso la carriera di due
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 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.
A Canterbury Tale (1944) was a collaboration with German cinematographer Erwin Hillier.
It is 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
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
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.
I Know Where I'm Going (1945) is 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
Eventually, she accepts the invitation of a fellow traveler, a naval officer,
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
Poi scivolarono 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
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
The Red Shoes (1948) e`
uno spaccato di vita di teatro, fra ambizioni, delusioni e amori.
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 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
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
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)
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.
Small Back Room (1949) is an expressionist melodrama set during
the Second World War.
The Elusive Pimpernel (1950)
Gone to Earth (1950)
Tales of Hoffman (1951) is a faithful adaptation of Jacques Offenbach's fantasy opera.
Rosalinda (1955) e` un'operetta-balletto.
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).
The Battle of River Plate/ Pursuit Of The Graf Spee (1956) is another film set in World War II.
Separatosi dal socio dopo Ill Met By Moonlight (1957),
Powell diresse un altro balletto,
Luna de miel (1959), e poi
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.
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.
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
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
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.
His last films were rather minor:
The Queen's Guards (1961), another military drama;
the mildly amusing They're a Weird Mob (1966);
the utterly mediocre Age Of Consent (1969), adapted from the 1935 novel by Norman Lindsay;
and The Boy Who Turned Yellow (1972).