Posts Tagged ‘Powell & Pressburger’

Abschied (1930) Powell + Pressburger Season at the Bfi

Dir: Robert Siodmak | Cast: Brigitte Horney, Aribert Mog, Emilie Unda | Drama

Made in Neubabelsberg Studios in Berlin in just ten days on a budget of DM80,000, Abschied (Farewell) gained Emeric Pressburger his first screen credit during his brief sojourn in Weimar Germany before settling in Britain in 1936.

The action never leaves the shabby boarding house presided over by Emilia Unda, who some viewers might recall as the headmistress in Madchen in Uniform. Unlike Robert Siodmak’s previous outing of outdoor Neue Sachlicheit (Menschen am Sontag (1929) this anticipates the later garrulous romantic realism of Pressburger’s own Miracle in Soho minus the baroque touches one came to associate with those of his longtime collaborator Michael Powell. @RichardChatten


Miracle in Soho (1957)

Dir: Julian Amyes | Cast: John Gregson, Belinda Lee, Cyril Cusack, Rosalie Crutchley, Ian Bannen | UK Drama 93′

Miracle in Soho begins with the proud declaration “An Emeric Pressburger Production”. The elevation of Michael Powell to the Pantheon of great directors has not been without muted grumbles; and has even lead some to claim Pressburger was the one with the talent.

But such talk tends to ignore the two 1950s films Pressburger made without Powell, starting with the only one he actually directed, Twice Upon a Time (1953). Always conspicuous by its absence from Powell & Pressburger seasons, the experience evidently cured him of the desire ever to direct again, this time hiring Julian Aymes to take on that onerous task. Based on a script called ‘St Anthony’s Lane’, which he had written in 1934 and was in his suitcase when he arrived in Britain the following year, the film follows Michael Morgan (Grigson) an ordinary bloke whose life is turned around by the ‘miracle’ of love. Neither Pressburger nor Aymes ever made another film; and Miracle in Soho proves that whereas Pressburger gave the Archers’ their heart, Powell definitely supplied the muscle.

Ten years earlier Powell had done an amazing job of recreating the Himalayas without leaving Britain in Black Narcissus; and three years later he too would set a fanciful Eastman Colour production in Soho. But Peeping Tom was a vision of Hell compared to the studio-bound whimsy of Miracle in Soho. Like Black Narcussus before it Miracle in Soho was also shot at Pinewood, but although set in a location far closer to home it’s far less convincingly evoked than Black Narcissus. A previous writer on the IMDb has speculated that the final cut had a hefty edit, which would account for the brevity of Billie Whitelaw’s role and the haunting but fleeting presence of an un-billed Wilfred Lawson as John Gregson’s father (ironically seen sipping tea from a saucer in the second of his two very brief appearances; since he’s obviously been tippling on something a lot stronger). @Richard Chatten


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