Phantom Threads: Powell + Pressburger in Context

A collection of films from other directors which are somehow linked to the Archers’ own films.

Complementing our celebration of the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, BFI Programmer-at-Large Geoff Andrew and BFI National Archive Senior Curator of Fiction James Bell have assembled a selection of titles by other directors which are somehow linked to the Archers’ own films.

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French CancanFrench Cancan

Period drama1955104 minsDirector: Jean Renoir

Based on the story of Moulin Rouge founder Charles Zidler, Jean Renoir’s tale of an impresario’s commitment to his art is a masterpiece of Technicolor brilliance.

Though Powell considered Renoir one of the greatest directors, they mostly differed in method and style. (See Black Narcissus, and The River.) Yet this nostalgic recreation of 1890s Paris bears a resemblance to The Red Shoes in blending dance, music and the visual arts into a backstage tale of the founding of the Moulin Rouge. Gabin’s impresario, while exploitative, is less diabolical than Walbrook’s Lermontov.

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La RondeLa Ronde

Drama195089 minsDirector: Max Ophuls

Ophuls’ exquisite, imaginative adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s play about a carousel of erotic encounters involving characters of different social status.

In Ophuls’ imaginative, highly personal adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s play, he added an omniscient narrator/master of ceremonies, played by Archers regular Walbrook, admired by Powell partly for his ‘enigmatic and elegant personality’. His wit, detachment and charm are wholly apposite as he introduces and comments on a carousel of erotic encounters involving characters of different social status in 19th-century Vienna.

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Wings of DesireWings of Desire

Fantasy1987128 minsDirector: Wim Wenders

In director Wim Wenders' (Paris, Texas) most metaphysical work, a guardian angel desires nothing more than to be human. Presented in a stunning new restoration.

Wenders and Powell may seem worlds apart, but they were involved with Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios around the same time, and this determinedly philosophical fable about a couple of angels listening in to the thoughts of various Berliners – until one of them falls in love and longs to become mortal – sounds echoes of the Archers’ A Matter of Life and Death, not least in its rhapsodic use of colour and black and white.

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The TempestThe Tempest

Drama198096 minsDirector: Derek Jarman

Derek Jarman’s brooding and darkly symbolic third feature is considered by some to be the most evocative Shakespeare adaptation ever to reach the screen.

Michael Powell dreamed for years of making a film of Shakespeare’s The Tempest; sadly, it never came to pass. Derek Jarman – another proudly idiosyncratic, independent-minded member of the English Romantic tradition of filmmaking, and a great admirer of Powell’s work – did manage to do so with a characteristically original take on the play, trimming and reordering the text, relishing anachronisms, cinephile allusions and adventurous casting.

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Black OrpheusBlack Orpheus

Romance1959107 minsDirector: Marcel Camus

Academy Award and Palme d'Or-winning adaption of the Orpheus myth, incorporating the music, costume and dance of Brazil’s Rio Festival.

Directing an Afro-Brazilian cast, Camus relocates the Orpheus myth to the favelas of Rio de Janeiro during the Carnival, focussing on a trolley driver and samba dancer who is unenthusiastically engaged to Mira and in love with Eurydice. As in several Archers movies, myth, metaphor, music, dance, drama and vibrant colour are mixed to imaginative exhilarating effect.

More from Phantom Threads: Powell + Pressburger in Context in our Rentals collection.