One writer. Six films. In a row. Pray for them

Empire (Australasia) - - REVIEW -

MICHAEL POW­ELL & Emeric Pressburger are one of the finest film­mak­ing teams the UK has ever pro­duced. To­day I’m go­ing to pay them the re­spect they de­serve by blitz­ing six of their films in one 12-hour sit­ting. It all feels rather boor­ish and un­couth for di­rec­tors who ex­tolled old-fash­ioned Bri­tish mores. At least I have tea.

8AM THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP (1943) “War starts at mid­night”, fa­mously bel­lows Ma­jor Gen­eral Wynne-candy (Roger Livesey, giv­ing quite lit­er­ally the per­for­mance of a life­time). My own per­sonal bat­tle be­gins at 8am. Our strug­gles are com­pa­ra­ble, I think. Au­da­ciously sad for a war movie at the time, it sees Wynne-candy wit­ness the old world or­der be­ing in­cre­men­tally pulled from un­der his well-fed heels, while there’s in­cred­i­ble pathos in An­ton Wal­brook’s Ger­man of­fi­cer-turned-refugee. And yet it zips along with such buoy­ant charm that I only re­mem­ber to make one cup of tea.

11AM A MAT­TER OF LIFE AND DEATH (1946) An­other war movie with Roger Livesey — but it could hardly be more dif­fer­ent from Blimp. This is a science-fic­tion fan­tasy ro­mance which al­ter­nates be­tween the most English vil­lage ever con­ceived, and an Art Deco ap­prox­i­ma­tion of heaven. It’s cin­e­matic manna. I’ve lost count of the num­ber of times I’ve seen it and it still has me mar­vel­ling and misty-eyed. Tea count: two.

1PM BLACK NAR­CIS­SUS (1947) Af­ter two out­stand­ing films, I’m not sure I’m in the mood for psy­cho­sex­ual moun­tain nuns. I know, I know, Black Nar­cis­sus is a mas­ter­piece — but yeesh, all this sex­ual re­pres­sion and ca­sual racism leaves me as cold as the Hi­malayan winds. It’s gor­geously shot, of course, but for my money lack­ing the sly, se­duc­tive wit of Pow­ell & Pressburger’s best. Per­haps it’s a dif­fer­ent story viewed in iso­la­tion. Slightly bored, I find my­self Googling if it’s pos­si­ble to drink too much tea. Did you know an ex­cess of tan­nins can lead to an iron de­fi­ciency?

3PM THE RED SHOES (1948) Martin Scors­ese called this “the most beau­ti­ful Tech­ni­color film ever made”, and it is cer­tainly an ex­plo­sion of glam­our that feels very at odds with my in­creas­ingly musty liv­ing room. Per­haps it’s the delir­ium of bing­ing, but I can’t help feel­ing this tale of creative ob­ses­sion is in some way a metaphor for my own self­less pur­suit of artis­tic per­fec­tion. As a small trib­ute to all this daz­zling colour, I treat my­self to a mug of Echi­nacea & Rasp­berry.

5.15PM THE TALES OF HOFF­MANN (1951) The Tales Of Hoff­mann is an opera. A straightup opera. It oc­curs to me, shame­fully, that I have never ac­tu­ally seen an opera. A grand ex­per­i­ment in cin­e­matic theatre, it’s like a fea­ture-length ver­sion of The Red Shoes’ fa­mous dance se­quence: baroque, lav­ish, and fre­quently bonkers (Moira Shearer’s head falls off at one point). I don’t al­ways en­tirely know what’s go­ing on. But it’s glo­ri­ous! Maybe I like op­eras! I’m prob­a­bly sup­posed to write about how ex­hausted I am from all this bing­ing, but hon­estly, if the films are this great, the iron de­fi­ciency is worth it.

7.30PM THE BOY WHO TURNED YEL­LOW (1972) A wacky kids’ film about a boy who lit­er­ally turns yel­low is an odd note to end the day on, and a cu­ri­ous fi­nal col­lab­o­ra­tion for the film­mak­ers whose part­ner­ship had mostly dis­solved a decade or so ear­lier. Their hey­day is clearly be­hind them here, but the novelty of see­ing an en­tire Tube train turn yel­low is heaps of fun, and at a mere 53 min­utes long, I’m se­cretly grate­ful to fi­nally be able to tend to my bed­sores. What’s more, I have run out of tea. JOHN NU­GENT

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