Khaleej Times - City Times
Pitch for cinema’s past with The Film Foundation
While Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker were holed up in an apartment cutting Raging Bull — an intense process that would have consumed the thoughts of most filmmakers — Scorsese told his editor to take a break. He had a movie he needed to show her.
Scorsese was by then already a passionate fan of the films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, the British filmmaking duo known as the Archers. He considered Technicolor films like The Red Shoes, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and A Matter of Life and Death to be masterpieces. But he had held off watching their 1945 black-and-white Scottish romance,
I Know Where I’m Going! fearing it might be “a lighter picture.” Something about that title. And besides, just how many masterworks could Powell and Pressburger have made?
Yet Scorsese was coaxed into screening it with his friend Jay Cocks the night before shooting began on
“I couldn’t have been more wrong,” Scorsese recalled. “It was funny, it was exciting, it was truly mystical and it was deeply stirring. I’ve seen I Know Where I’m Going! many times since then — so many times, in fact, that I’ve almost lost count — and I’m always moved and always surprised every time, and I’m held in suspense right up to those amazing final moments.”
Scorsese and the film restoration nonprofit he founded, the Film Foundation, have launched a new virtual theater, the Film Foundation Restoration Screening Room. Every month, for one night only, films that have been restored by the Film Foundation will be presented in free online screenings accompanied by discussions from Scorsese and other filmmakers. The screening room begins, naturally, with the restoration of I Know Where I’m Going!
Since it was released in the waning days of World War II, I Know Where I’m Going! has played a unique role in the hearts of moviegoers. It’s a movie that tends to be shared moviegoer to moviegoer, like a cherished gift or family treasure. It’s a buried gem that anyone who’s ever seen it wants to tell everyone about. “You have to see this one” is how most conversations about I Know Where I’m Going! begin.
Shortly after seeing I Know Where I’m Going, Powell visited Scorsese, who encouraged Schoonmaker to come along to dinner. They hit it off and by 1984 were married. Powell died in 1990; Pressburger in 1988. Ever since, Schoonmaker and Scorsese’s have dedicated themselves — when they’re not making films (they’re currently finishing the edit on Killers of the Flower Moon, an expansive crime film for Apple about the 1920s murders in Oklahoma’s Osage Nation )— to restoring Powell and Pressburger’s movies. Scorsese recently signed on to narrate a documentary on their films. For years, Schoonmaker has been combing through Powell’s diaries with the hope of publishing them.
“I inherited that,” says Schoonmaker, Scorsese’s celebrated longtime editor. “Michael, when he died, left a little furnace burning inside of me. What keeps me going is loving and trying to get other people to love his work.”
How much can come from loving an old movie? For Schoonmaker, the answer is almost everything. Scorsese’s passion for the Archers’ movies inspired Schoonmaker’s own, and in turn led to the love of her life.
“It was Marty’s passion for film history that made this all happen,” she says, chuckling.
The Film Foundation, which collaborated with the British Film Institute on the I Know Where I’m Going restoration, has restored more than 925 films, preserving wide swaths of film history and picking up the slack of many of today’s film studios, who have showed less interest in preserving cinema’s past than keeping pipelines of new “content” flowing.
“At this point, they’re not film companies anymore, but vast media conglomerates. For them, old movies are one small item in a wide array of properties and activities,” says Scorsese.
“The people who run them are several generations from the very question of cinema: the word is meaningful only as a marketing term. Their interest is not in making good films, but in making their shareholders richer. So, no, restoring a Howard Hawks picture is not high on their list of priorities. The idea that it should be, for reasons that have nothing to do with profits and losses, is not even entertained. In this atmosphere, the idea of art has no place. It throws a wrench in the works.” AP