House Logo
Explore categories +

Michael Powell (#110 of 11)

The 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival

Comments Comments (...)

The 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival
The 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival

I emerged out of the train station and onto the roiling snake pit of Hollywood Boulevard this past Thursday afternoon with a singularity of purpose that has served well those who have learned to safely navigate this peril-ridden stretch of tourism and other desperate forms of humanity. Among the mass of logy sidewalk gawkers, shaggily costumed superheroes, and barkers hawking coupons for bus tours and free drinks at comedy clubs, the guy in the Creamsicle-colored tuxedo and matching top hat didn’t even cause me to balk as he moved toward me on the sidewalk. He certainly didn’t seem out of place, even as his lanky, six-and-a-half-foot frame towered above the stumpier heights of most everyone else bobbling down the Walk of Fame. But as we passed each other, this orangey giant suddenly offered up a loud, impassioned plea to the crowd, for no readily apparent reason, which put me at attention: “Remember Bob Hope!” Wondering if a declaration of fond tribute for, say, Mickey Rooney would have been timelier, I moved right along. No matter. There could be no doubt, if there ever was any, that the 2014 edition of the TCM Classic Film Festival, headquartered as always in the very heart of the mythological realm of Hollywood, was now officially under way, a gathering of film buffs vacationing from the real world among the icons and memories of movie-studio glory, where there would be no lack of warm remembrance for Hope or Rooney or any of a hundred other stars whose images and talents would be ceaselessly evoked and reminisced upon over the next four days.

Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2013: The River

Comments Comments (...)

Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2013: <em>The River</em>
Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2013: <em>The River</em>

Jean Renoir’s The River demonstrates with intoxicating lyricism the confluence of apparent contraries: past and present, innocence and experience, permanence and change—even Hinduism and Christianity. This gorgeously lensed coming-of-age tale, Renoir’s first film in color, opens with a montage that sketches out the rhythms of daily life along the eponymous Bengali river. The ruminative voiceover, delivered by an adult version of the film’s teenage protagonist, ushers the audience into a milieu that’s as precise in its spatial orientation as it is vague about its temporal setting sometime “after the war.” Self-professed “ugly duckling” Harriet (Patricia Walters) lives with her parents and five younger siblings near the jute factory run by her father (Esmond Knight). The family spends most of their abundant spare time in an idyllic garden. But, as Harriet’s father rather bluntly points out, there’s a serpent in every paradise, as well as the seductive temptation of forbidden fruit. The snake proves to be quite real, and the temptation is supplied by the arrival of one-legged war veteran Captain John (Thomas E. Breen), their neighbor Mr. John’s (Arthur Shields) American cousin. Captain John’s attentions are equally desired by Harriet and her older, more aggressive friend Valerie (Adrienne Corri).

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot Tony Dayoub’s Top 10 Films of All Time

Comments Comments (...)

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Tony Dayoub’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Tony Dayoub’s Top 10 Films of All Time

When The House Next Door invited its writers to submit their Top 10 films of all time, I was faced with the usual conundrum: What does “Top 10” signify – best or favorite? After much consideration, I’m happy to say that the list I came up with could easily represent either. These are definitely personal favorites, but, in my not-so-humble opinion, they are also unassailable in their perfection, and could easily fall at the top of any all-time best list arrived at by consensus.

Avant-Garde Traveler: Jean Epstein

Comments Comments (...)

Avant-Garde Traveler: Jean Epstein
Avant-Garde Traveler: Jean Epstein

Jean Epstein is one of the great filmmakers cinephiles discover after deciding there are no more worlds left to conquer—and the effect is blinding and humbling. Like many such revelations, his work throws the map of cinema into disarray, knocking over the mile markers and headstones set up long ago by the official canon: surrealists over here, expressionism over there, social realism way over there. He was a little bit of each—none exclusively—and more. He associated with the surrealists, but the oneiric qualities of The Fall of the House of Usher (adapted by Luis Buñuel, who also served as assistant director on the film), like much of his work, are found in some unquantifiable space between special effects and elementary moods. Work that seemed to foretell the neorealist, social-realist, or magical-realist subdivisions just as often turned into daydreams, or intricate music boxes that deflated the heaviness of their own narrative concerns. A common sight—or sensation—in an Epstein film is the vast, oscillating sea, indifferent, unimpressed, a law unto itself, governing the internal physics of a given work, as well as the hearts of men and women.

15 Famous Movie Heavens

Comments Comments (...)

15 Famous Movie Heavens
15 Famous Movie Heavens

No, this list-maker hasn’t had the pleasure of devouring Kate Hudson’s ticking-clock romance, A Little Bit of Heaven, which sees everyone’s favorite Almost Famous alum continue to chase her first hit like an undiscerning free-baser. The movie did, however, inspire thoughts of cinema’s approach to the great hereafter, which has been visualized as everything from an inhabitable oil painting to your good old field of clouds. Diagnosed with terminal cancer by a doctor (Gael García Bernal) who in turn becomes her squeeze, Hudson’s character tries for a little heaven on earth before her time runs out. These 15 heavens, however, almost all exist on another plane.

15 Famous Movie Ledges

Comments Comments (...)

15 Famous Movie Ledges
15 Famous Movie Ledges

Hitting theaters this week is Man on a Ledge, a rather unsubtly titled thriller that stars Sam Worthington as a guy whose nowhere-left-to-turn predicament has him doing the old wave-down-at-the-masses bit. This isn’t the first time Worthington has flirted with dizzying precipices (his motion-captured doppelgänger braved the floating mountains of Pandora), and it certainly isn’t the first time Hollywood has tormented acrophobics. Movies have long been living on the edge, ever intent on serving up vicarious vertigo. For proof, here’s a list of 15 memorable movie ledges, from cliffs to rooftops to ominous subway platforms. Safety nets not included.

Cinequest ‘11: Midnight Son, New York Decalogue, Madly in Love, Sodankyla Forever, & The Glass Slipper

Comments Comments (...)

Cinequest ‘11: <em>Midnight Son</em>, <em>New York Decalogue</em>, <em>Madly in Love</em>, <em>Sodankyla Forever</em>, & <em>The Glass Slipper</em>
Cinequest ‘11: <em>Midnight Son</em>, <em>New York Decalogue</em>, <em>Madly in Love</em>, <em>Sodankyla Forever</em>, & <em>The Glass Slipper</em>

Cinequest recently wrapped its 21st year. I attended the festival in its last few days, which is the equivalent of eating the frosting of a 10-layer cake. I didn’t see enough films to be able to make broad conclusions about the festival, but the small taste I did get enables me to say that this festival has one again, just as it always does, stuck to its promise of programming the new and uncharted in cinema. Though some of the films playing the festival, like Potiche, have built their reputations at places like Cannes, Berlin, Venice, etc., for the most part this is a festival whose programming is doggedly dedicated to bringing films to the screen that in many cases, up until their CQ premiere, are not on any one’s radars (films from first-time filmmakers and those that haven’t gotten much exposure outside of their home country or at other festivals).

New York Film Festival 2010: Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff and A Matter of Life and Death

Comments Comments (...)

New York Film Festival 2010: <em>Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff</em> and <em>A Matter of Life and Death</em>
New York Film Festival 2010: <em>Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff</em> and <em>A Matter of Life and Death</em>

Directors aren’t the only auteurs. There’s a large body of film writing devoted to making the case for stars as the authors of their movies, and a much smaller one arguing for screenwriters. But the cinematographer, too, is vital, the person responsible for the movie’s look. Cinema splits the painter’s job in two; the director may decide what the image looks like, but the cameraman actually makes it.

Jack Cardiff was one of the single best cinematographers. Born in 1914 to a family of English doctors, he came to photography through other arts first. He began as a child actor (his real parents playing his stage parents), devoured countless literary classics after reading about them in a porn book, and spent hours upon hours wandering through museums. When older industry people tested him to see if he was ready to operate a Technicolor camera, he responded by discussing the ways Vermeer and Rembrandt used light. He then used some of the richest Technicolor that the movies have known, radiating the Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger masterpieces A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Black Narcissus (1947), and The Red Shoes (1948). The trilogy—about a fighter pilot escaping heaven to be with his beloved, a group of nuns struck with sexual frenzy in India, and a ballet dancer destroyed by her impresario—called for strong lights and colors to match their strong emotions, and Cardiff supplied them. The sparkling reds, greens, yellows, and blues in these movies look crystallized, then melted and slightly smeared, so that your eyes feel like they’re eating sugar candy in a flower patch. The vision was so particular to Cardiff that when Martin Scorsese first saw Pandora and the Flying Dutchman, an Ava Gardner fantasy that Cardiff shot for another director, he swore it was a Powell and Pressburger film.

Tribeca Film Festival 2010: Open House

Comments Comments (...)

Tribeca Film Festival 2010: <em>Open House</em>
Tribeca Film Festival 2010: <em>Open House</em>

To watch Open House, Andrew Paquin’s limp splatterfest, is to revisit some of the hoarier conceits marking the last half-century of the non-supernatural horror film. While the figure of the maladjusted psychosexual killer who likes to videotape his murders dates back to Michael Powell’s 1960 classic Peeping Tom, the image of a woman chained to a wall in an isolated room recalls the contemporary Saw series of gore-a-thons. Similarly, just as Paquin’s frequent recourse to the cliché of potential rescuers showing up unexpectedly at the house where the heroine is being imprisoned only to be summarily dispatched by the murderer will be overly familiar to viewers of any number of teenie-kill pictures, the film’s lingering shots of gaping wounds and brief interest in corporeal punishment are an all too common fixture in the post Eli Roth horror landscape.

Anthologizing Bluebeard: A Conversation with Miriam Bale

Comments Comments (...)

Anthologizing Bluebeard: A Conversation with Miriam Bale
Anthologizing Bluebeard: A Conversation with Miriam Bale

A mysterious, handsome man lures women to their doom. This story has taken many forms; the Bluebeard legend in particular has inspired generations of artists. Beginning on Wednesday, March 3rd, Anthology Film Archives will screen a number of movies inspired by the story, from Chaplin’s classic Monsieur Verdoux to Catherine Breillat’s latest, Bluebeard. Also included will be rare works by Fritz Lang, Michael Powell, and others. I visited series curator Miriam Bale to learn more.

Tell us a bit about the real-life Bluebeard story.

Bluebeard was supposedly partially inspired by a 15th-century Breton serial killer named Gilles de Rais, but “Bluebeard” itself is a fairy tale. It was first written down by Charles Perrault who also wrote “Sleeping Beauty”, “Cinderella”, and “Little Red Riding Hood” and is known as the father of the modern fairy tale. But Bluebeard is remarkable for being a fairy tale without much magic; it’s very much about real people. It also reads as fairly modern in some ways. It was written in the 17th century, but it’s about a man who goes on a bunch of business trips and his smart, curious unsatisfied wife!