Michael Powell Centenary Conference
Special Panel: Powell Research Centre, Canterbury Christ Church University College: Locating the Self: Narrative, Journey and Identity in the Films of Michael Powell
Karen Shepherdson: Narrative Histories and the Presence of the Past in Powell and Pressburger.s A Canterbury Tale.
Bryan Hawkins: From Fools and Pilgrims to the Postmodern Self: Powell, Neo-Romanticism, Personalism and the Construction of Post-War Identity.
Nick Burton: Landscape and Desire in the Age of Consent.
The Powell Research Centre at Canterbury is an important centre of study and promotion for the work of Michael Powell and it has organized festivals, conferences and exhibitions since 1996. The centre is offering this panel as the Canterbury location has been a key focus of its activities and three of its members are developing work around the issue of space, place and identity in Powell.s films.
Panel Theme: The landscapes of Powell.s films act as spaces in which complex and diverse senses of self and identity are explored. Powell.s films of the 1940s define and nuance dimensions of individual and collective identity in collection with particular narrative strategies, modernism and the particular stances of British Neo-Romance. His later films develop these positions. Powell.s films of the 1960s, particularly Peeping Tom and Age of Consent, can be understood to extend Powell.s engagement with self and identity in relation to post-modern and post-colonial concerns and issues.
Three interconnected papers will consider these themes using A Canterbury Tale, Peeping Tom and Age of Consent as the key texts, identifying and exploring important, contingent and historically specific constructions of self and identity that are developed by Powell throughout his career.
Adam Bingham: Black Narcissus and Melodrama
My proposal for this paper is to look in detail at the Powell/Pressburger film Black Narcissus  as an example of pure melodrama in both a Hollywood and a European sense. I will consider, in particular, its expressionistic, Douglas Sirk-esque mise-en-scene, overt artificiality, distanciation effects and what has been termed .Critical pathos., its pervasive use of doubling (or .Echoes., as Robin Wood has termed it) with regard to both characters and narrative.
The mise-en-scene of Black Narcissus is the clearest paradigm of its status as melodrama. It conforms to one of the basic tenets of the genre as it initially developed on the pre-revolutionary French stage and as it flourished in Hollywood in the 1950s: that is, it communicates what cannot be said in words (the use of the colour red, especially pertaining to flowers and the hair colour and make-up of sisters Clodagh and Ruth, is an example of this as it takes on a connotation of flowering sexuality and passion).
Related to the mise-en-scene are the notions of empathy and distance and the melodramatic features of doubling. The whole film was shot in the studio, with process shots for the exteriors, which today provokes a sense in which these shots (and some of the interiors as the film progresses) don.t look real. The almost Brechtian effect produced by this.more a feature of European than American melodrama (such as Claude Chabrol.s Landru ).adds to a self-reflexivity on the film.s part which facilitates in the viewer a critical distance which allows them to, as John Gibbs has noted in his book on melodrama and mise-en-scene: .Look beyond the characters to understand the larger forces that shape their behaviour.. The (again more European) melodramatic tradition of doubling can also be seen in the film (chiefly with regard to sisters Clodagh and Ruth). And this alerts us to Geoffrey Nowell-Smith.s work on melodrama and psychoanalysis, with the sense of the split mind (Ruth as Clodagh.s id), of repression, and of what Freud termed .Hysterical conversion..
Elizabeth de Cacqueray: Michael Powell (with Emeric Pressburger): the aesthetics and ethics of the war film. The marriage of tradition and innovation: an Analysis of The Canterbury Tale and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.
1. Construction of the image: framing and editing/ light and darkness/ the set. The production of an original and highly personal aesthetic on the level of the image. The reception calls on a particularly active and curious spectator. Reconstruction of vision: putting the pieces together.
2. Powell and Pressburger and the war film genre. Mixing of genres: war film, romance, musical comedy. Questioning the genre.
3. The questioning of stereotypes: critique of masculinity, reconstruction of femininity, concepts of Britishness and the .foreigner..
Conclusion: Powell and Pressburger.s ethics are firmly anchored in, even could be said to emerge from, their aesthetic construction. From the image itself, via their re-view of film genre and of gender and national stereotypes, Powell and Pressburger create their original and questioning vision.both of cinematographic art and of social relations.
James Chapman: .Conservative by nature, Labour by experience.: The historical moment of A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
A Matter of Life and Death, for too long a neglected film in the Powell-Pressburger canon, is now recognised as being one of the duo.s most imaginative works, exemplified by its inclusion in the British Film Institute.s .360 key films of cinema. and the accompanying entry in BFI Publishing.s .Film Classics. series. Hitherto both critical and academic interest in the film, exemplified by the work of John Ellis and Ian Christie, has tended to focus on its aesthetic and formal properties. However, there has been relatively little attention to the historical contexts of production and reception.beyond the oft-cited contemporary review of Richard Winnington that AMOLAD was .even farther away from the essential realism and the true business of the British movie. than Powell and Pressburger.s previous two films, A Canterbury Tale and I Know Where I.m Going. This paper will address this gap by analysing AMOLAD in the contexts of British cinema history and film culture in the mid-1940s.
AMOLAD can be placed at the nexus of a complex matrix of culture and commerce in the British cinema of the 1940s. Its production combines two, largely separate, histories: the role of the Ministry of Information (MOI) in the promotion of an officially-endorsed wartime film culture and the parallel emergence of the Rank Organisation as the hegemonic producer- distributor-exhibitor during the war years. Originated in response to a policy directive from the MOI to address the issue of changing Anglo-American relations, a production of the scale and scope of AMOLAD was made possible only by the patronage of Rank. It belongs to the period of what John Ellis has termed the .Quality Film Adventure. when Rank was prepared to invest in films that were the antithesis of either cultural or aesthetic conservatism (other examples in the mid-1940s including the David Lean/Cineguild films and Gabriel Pascal.s production of Caesar and Cleopatra, as well as other Powell-Pressburger films).
While the narrative of AMOLAD does, obviously, reflect the original commission to engage critically with the question of Anglo-American relations.a characteristic it shares with other late-war and post-war films such as A Canterbury Tale, The Way to the Stars (dir. Anthony Asquith, 1945) and I Live in Grosvenor Square (dir. Herbert Wilcox, 1945).the film also addresses other issues that arose directly from the historical moment at which it was made. In particular it addresses the emergence of wartime populism for faith in a better future and to this extent also belongs to a cycle of speculative films including the MOI short The Dawn Guard (dir. Roy Boulting, 1941) and Ealing.s feature film of J. B. Priestley.s play They Came To A City (dir. Basil Dearden, 1944). Commentators have picked up the relevance of Peter Carter.s description of himself (.Conservative by nature, Labour by experience.) in relation to contemporary political and social discourses, especially regarding the election of a Labour government in the general election of July 1945, though the significance of the date (2 May 1945, i.e. one week before VE-Day) has not so often been identified. AMOLAD is, quite literally, a film caught between war and peace, or between past and future. Unlike other .reconstruction. films, however, AMOLAD is equivocal about the future: its .other world. represents both progressive left/liberal hopes of social justice and equality (everyone has the job they want) but also Tory fears about an intrusive welfare state.
Steve Chibnall: C.O.D. . Michael Powell.s Quota Quickies
For most critics and film analysts, Michael Powell.s cinema really begins with The Edge of the World; but by the time Edge was released in 1937, Powell already had more than 20 films under his directorial belt. He began his career as a film-maker working on the treadmills of British Quota production in the early 1930s, averaging one film every three months. Some of these early films are lost, but others survive.a few have been recently discovered.and can be tracked down (although not without considerable difficulty).
Rather than adopting the auteurist line of enquiry that has become the standard approach when considering Powell.s work, this paper will place his early films in the context of the Quota production system. It will distinguish between those films.usually all termed .quota quickies..that were made as supporting features and those which had loftier ambitions. It will consider how typical the films were of contemporary production, and to what extent they offered fresh angles and perspectives. Particular attention will be paid to the way in which some of Powell.s quota films satirised and allegorised their own production context. Powell.s relationships with different studios and renters, and with key collaborators such as Jerome Jackson and Jerry Verno will commented on. The paper will also examine the critical reception of the films and their exhibition, using primary source materials gathered for my wider AHRB-funded study of low-budget film-making and second-feature exhibition in the 1930s.
Peter Glenn Christensen: Group Loyalty and the Will of the Individual in the Archers. Literary Adaptations
Although it may at first seem that a study of Michael Powell.s direction of literary adaptations while a partner with Emeric Pressburger may be rather old-fashioned and/or unenlightening, gaining an overall view of the ethos behind these adaptations is worthwhile since it ties in so directly with a theme of major concern to Powell, the conflict between the individual and the collective. In his films from 1939 to 1942, The Spy in Black, The Lion Has Wings, Contraband, The 42nd Parallel, and One of Our Aircraft Is Missing, war efforts require the placing of individual desires to the rear of a struggle against an enemy. Only The Spy in Black was adapted (and much changed) from pre-existing material. Indeed, as is well known, World War II continues to dominate many of his later films through to 1961, often those with original screenplays as in the films of the early 1940s. Nevertheless, in Black Narcissus, The Small Back Room, Gone to Earth, and The Elusive Pimpernel, Powell makes a distinguished contribution to literary adaptation at a time when others of his generation such as Lean, Olivier, Reed, Asquith, Hitchcock, and Dickinson applied themselves to this genre.
In Gone to Earth (as in The Tales of Hoffmann, an opera adaptation), the protagonist Hazel Woodus is free of any group identity, although she is pitted against a restrictive and condemnatory religious community. Despite a strong will, she is still buffeted about and falls to her death (cf. the fates of Robbie Manson, Victoria Page and Sister Ruth). Hoffmann, like Hazel pursues love, and his three love stories all end horribly. In Black Narcissus, the repressive religious community is the actual community to which Sister Ruth belongs, thus leading to her death. In contrast, Sammy.s war work in The Small Back Room and Scarlet Pimpernel Percy Blakeney.s dedication to save the aristocrats from the Jacobins and the mob enable them both to survive and triumph. Thus, we conclude, particularly from the adaptations of the work of Mary Webb and Rumer Godden, that the assertion of individual will outside of group constraints generally leads to misfortune or death for Powell.s protagonists.
In this paper, I will examine how the literary adaptations have been shaped from the original material to further these themes, which have already been broached by Ian Christie, Llorenç Esteve, Raymond Durgnat, and Emanuela Martini.
Alexander Doty: .An Instrument with a Flaming Sword.: Conservative Queerness in A Canterbury Tale
Writer-director Michael Powell, in his autobiography A Life in the Movies, says that his (and collaborator Emeric Pressburger.s) 1944 film .A Canterbury Tale looks on the surface conventional, but it was filled with subversive material.. (438) What is conventional about the film is easy for Powell (and the viewer) to see: .we were explaining to the Americans, and to our own people, the spiritual values and traditions we were fighting for.. (437) What is subversive about the film Powell never goes on to state directly, but he suggests it when he notes that .[t]here was a loony squire, who was so anxious to preserve Britain.s traditional virtues that he poured glue on girls. hair when they went out at night with soldiers.. (437) The spokesperson for the film.s conservative ideological message is a .loony. with a psychosexual problem. And this psychosexual problem is queered as it is narratively contextualized as the actions of a middle-aged man who lives with his mother and who hopes that by scaring the women of the town into staying at home at night, he can get the soldiers stationed there to come to his lectures on the English countryside and English history.
However, when you think about it, there is very little potential for subversion by having someone queer also be the mouthpiece for Ye Olde England virtues and values. Under these conditions, traditional values could only be subverted at the expense of queerness.that is, by a homophobia that would cause people to reject traditional values because they were supported by a queer character. As it turns out, if you take the position of the central queer character in A Canterbury Tale, you also take the conservative position. The only way this film could have been subversive or progressive would be if it suggested that the glueman.s repressed queerness was the problem.that repression leads to rigid and fanatical conventionality. This is the position of Bernardo Bertolucci.s The Conformist, but not of Powell and Pressburger.s A Canterbury Tale.
Glueman Thomas Colpeper is allowed to be as sympathetic as he is at the end.one critic calls him .the film.s heart..because his conservative values makes him the right (in both senses of the word) kind of queer man.a queer man who is no threat to dominant culture because he supports its ideology. In the face of this, what.s a little glue on some young women.s hair? Even the film.s major female character, Alison.herself a victim.is willing to forgive Colpeper once she hears his patriotic rationale for the attacks.
One sign of Colpeper being the right kind of queer is that the narrative contrives to have his queer sexuality closeted or displaced. The Home Guard uniform he wears during his nocturnal attacks as the Glueman is literally hidden in a closet, and the glue-in-the-hair attacks on women is one or two steps removed from what Colpeper.s desire to have the soldiers stationed at the town all to himself.
Adding to, if not necessarily complicating, this representation of queer sexualilty are two other characters.cinema organist Peter Gibbs and farm owner Prudence Honeywood. Cynical Peter admits that he likes Colpeper .in spite of himself,. something Colpeper overhears and confronts him with during the train ride the principles take to Canterbury during the final movement of the film. Attempting to resist this attraction to Colpeper, Peter is the only one of the major characters who is still intent on turning him in to the police even after Colpeper explains his motives. But Peter finds himself being won over by Colpeper.s idea that he, Peter, might be .an instrument with a flaming sword. to help fulfill other people.s spiritual needs.just as the narrative contrives for Colpeper to be.
Just as Colpeper makes his queer self useful to dominant culture.and thus ultimately escapes its censure.through his Ye Olde England lectures and spiritual guidance, Peter finds his queer self a place within traditional England at the end of the film as he plays the mighty organ of Canterbury Cathedral during a service for soldiers. As with the glue in the hair, playing the church organ in this context might be considered another vividly rendered representation of how yet another queer man will displace his desires and, thus, be made acceptable. Once Colpeper has passed the .useful-to-straights-and-dominant-culture. queer torch on to Peter, he magically disappears from the narrative.
Farm owner Prudence Honeywood is described in the film.s script as running her farm .as efficiently. as her sister Susanna runs the Inn, .dress[ing] like a man,. and .knowing what she likes and seeing that she gets it.. At one point, she says that only one man ever asked her to marry him, but that she.s .still a maid.an old .un, but a free one.. There are enough indictors here to understand Prudence as queer in her gender positioning and, possibly, her sexuality. But once we factor in that women were given some leeway with their gender positioning during the war as long as they were assisting the war effort, it is clear that, like Colpeper and Peter, Prudence.s queerness is made acceptable because the narrative firmly connects it to the preservation of .the spiritual values and traditions. the film affirms from start to finish. Prudence.s farm is part of the beauty and productivity of Kent that A Canterbury Tale romanticizes.
It is telling that most critics at the time dismissed the Glueman plot while they praised the film for the way it captured the beauty of the English countryside.as well as for the film.s stirring spiritual finale in Canterbury. In a way, these critics were on to something. Even if they had been willing to wrestle with the implications of Colpeper.s sexual repression, they would have been led back to conventional God and Country sentiments. But, let.s face it, that classic of Ye Olde England, Chaucer.s The Canterbury Tales, to which the film alludes in its title and opening sequence, also promises cultural inclusivity with its parade of pilgrims, only to condemn its rather openly queer Pardoner. Colpeper escapes this fate, but only by repressing his queerness and refashioning his sexual desires in the service of God and country. .Just close your eyes and think of England,. indeed!
Llorenç Esteve: Honeymoon (1959): The Contamination of Popular Folklore
Honeymoon /Luna de Miel (1959) is one of the most obscure pieces of Powell.s career. One reason maybe is because it.s a Spanish co-production shot in Spain, a country which Powell said that he did not understand but that he was deeply captivated by. Apparently the film is a revision of the classic leitmotif in Powell.s work, Life versus Art. Luna de Miel had many similarities to The Red Shoes but with one special added interest, the apparition of the most popular and creative Spanish dancer of the moment: Antonio. The film is situated in a complex time in Powell.s career, between the last .Archers. film Ill met by Moonlight and the complexity of Peeping Tom. For the most part, the film goes unnoticed, receiving poor reviews and a late release in England after three years. Clearly this situation augmented is its obscure position.
But the film has many interesting points, above all the creative effort of a British filmmaker trying to achieve a genuine Spanish dance film. In that point the film opens many debates. First, in Powell.s interpretation of Spanish dance and folklore (including Spanish musicians classics like Falla) and in his confrontation with the 1950s. Spanish musical film. Second as Powell is contaminating the popular style idea of flamenco, an art form very deeply entrenched in the Spanish soul. For the first time the Powell musical moves away from closed spaces and explores the open exteriors, especially the countryside. Powell tries to balance his classic vision of closed musical with a new and open vision. Spain definitely contaminates the art of Michael Powell.
Diane Friedman: A Matter of Fried Onions: the Medical Case History by Michael Powell
Michael Powell prided himself on inserting real life dialogue and settings in his films to add authenticity and depth, impacting the audience imperceptibly. AMOLAD (A Matter of Life and Death) represents a significant scholarly but unrecognized achievement. AMOLAD portrays a complete medical description of a head injury. Developing neurological deficits are integral to the unfolding of the plot. The achievements of British neuroscience are displayed throughout the film. But Michael Powell draws no attention to this profoundly rich presentation. Appreciation of this film is complete without knowledge of any medical facts, and analysis of the film has never focused on the medical aspects. Yet because there is such a wealth of neurologic details, they simply cannot be there by accident. These details include the use of the camera obscura, the diminished vision in the garden, Dr. Reeve.s motorcycle accident, Conductor 71 and the chess book, the stairway itself. Other aspects include the choice of music, the neurological exam in the Officer.s mess, the monitoring of the patient in the doctor.s study. Michael Powell stated in his autobiography that he drew on the experiences of his brother in law, Joseph Reidy, a plastic surgeon. He also used as dialogue lines from medical texts he consulted..[This takes place] in space, not in time.. The understanding of the medical basis for the film adds yet another dimension to the film.s exploration of the human mind, psyche, spirit and heart. This paper will present an analysis of AMOLAD from a medical perspective, illustrated with brief excerpts of the film, to draw attention to yet another level of appreciation for this remarkable film and Michael Powell.s medical scholarship.
Stella Hockenhull: Powell, Pressburger and Neo-Romanticism
The films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger have been re-evaluated from the 1970s onwards by scholars such as Ian Christie. They have been treated as innovative figures who stand out from their contemporaries, producing films which are inconsistent with the British tradition of film-making. They have been described as .rogue outsiders. .observing no obvious cinematic tradition.. Whilst aesthetically their films do have a European influence, I would argue that their visual style and affect is in keeping with contemporary painting of the 1940s, that of Neo-Romanticism. Film study has been dominated by narrative theory since the early 1970s drawing on psychoanalysis, linguistics and semiotics. Aesthetic theory has been lost to film study, and yet it is the senses and affect created by an image which often provokes emotion. In this respect the methodologies employed by narrative film theory offer little scope for this type of discussion. To apply the aesthetic theories of Romanticism and the Sublime, rather than narrative theory, to an understanding of their films, offers a return to an emotional, sensory response and a way of re-evaluating their work. I would argue that, far from being .foreign. and relating to European traditions, Powell and Pressburger were representative of the feeling and mood of the 1940s, that of British Romanticism, and they form part of this Neo-Romantic tradition which is demonstrated visually through the composition and themes of their films.
Kurt Luchs: The Shock of Deep Laughter & the Shock of the New: The Shockingly original screenplays of Powell and Pressburger
This paper will explore a subject not frequently broached: The humor of Powell & Pressburger. For a team who never made an out-and-out comedy, there is a good deal of comedy in what they do and how they do it. This is evident not just in their finished films but also in their collaborative screenplays. We will examine the development of their humor, from the flippant wit of their early Hitchcockian thrillers .The Spy in Black. and .Contraband....to the warm, human comedy of .The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp....to the wise Chaucerian laughter of .A Canterbury Tale....to the romantic comedy of .I Know Where I.m Going....to the surreal humor of .A Matter of Life and Death....to the light farce of .The Elusive Pimpernel. and .Oh...Rosalinda!. ...and even the ethnic humor of .They.re a Weird Mob.. We will make the case that for P&P, humor is not merely a means to a cinematic end, a form of comic relief, or a spoonful of sugar to make the exposition go down. It is crucial to their compassionate and deeply human vision of the universe. At the heart of it all, God (if He.s there) is laughing, and we would do well to laugh along with Him.
But we will also use P&P.s approach to humor to shed light on another aspect of their writing which, like humor, has the power to surprise and delight: their sheer originality as story tellers, which could be couched in the phrase made famous by art critic Robert Hughes, .The Shock of the New.. Their subjects, plots and characters are seldom conventional, and when they are, they are never handled conventionally. As the film industry in the US and elsewhere becomes ever more bereft of truly original ideas, P&P are shining beacons of what is possible to those able and daring enough to dream big and to make great art for the sheer love and joy of it.
Patricia MacCormack: CineMasochism: Peeping Tom and the Ecstatic Gaze
Peeping Tom.s Mark Lewis stands as a materialisation of the cinesexual.the positioning of the spectator as orienting desire purely around the look. Beyond hetero and homosexuality, Mark.s desire to look not as a substitute for sex but as a material expression and act of desire reflects the pleasures and desires of the cinephile. Peeping Tom ambiguously positions the gaze as both sadistic and masochistic, as both reflecting the spectator and affronting her/him with horrific images and events. Through cinesexuality reality and phantasy concern themselves with the affective potential of images, and thought is activated by images and the desire for them. The pleasures found in Peeping Tom could be described as ecstatic.pleasures which takes the viewer outside of reified paradigms of power, desire and even gender. While Lewis is dominant over his victims, he submits, as does the spectator, to the affects of the gaze. As a complex and negotiated essay on the nature of visual pleasure, Peeping Tom can offer ways in which the dialectics of looking can be configured as folding rather than opposing viewer with image. Using Foucault, Blanchot and Derrida.s work on ecstasy, this paper explores the ways in which the spectator, both we and Mark, while expressing the powers of creating images with thought and act, submit to the force of the image which takes the self outside.
Alan Marcus: Black Narcissus as Primal Drama
The film .Black Narcissus. (1946) presents an evocative visual exploration of eroticism and restraint in a foreign setting. This paper will seek to examine the adaptation of Powell.s and Pressburger.s classic film from the novel by Ruth Godden published in 1939. In so doing, the paper will address the way the film and key elements of its adaptation can be analysed in the context of a .primal drama., juxtaposing the human struggle of sexuality and spirituality.
Steve Masters: Fair Game: Hunting Down the Woman in Gone to Earth and The Company of Wolves
This paper emanates from a chapter of my MA dissertation.on issues of identity and desire in the early films of Neil Jordan.in which I fleetingly noted that Jordan.s 1984 film The Company of Wolves was effective in its suggestive and discreet use of cinematic intertexts, including Powell and Pressburger.s Gone to Earth (1949). Subsequently I noticed that their respective deliberations on female desire, as located in mythic narratives and arcane folklore, had something more in common than a highly-stylised visual approach and a fabular fantasy narrative. Both offer the stories of central female protagonists whose journeys involve a negotiation with standards of femininity and (gendered) morality. I wish to consider how they differ in these negotiations.
The Powell and Pressburger film.s delineation of sexual difference is similar to that found in another Jennifer Jones picture, Duel in the Sun, itself an archetype for feminist readings of mainstream cinema. In both films the woman is torn between the dull, respectable partner offering domestic passivity, and the charismatic man who provides the chance for active adventure. The Company of Wolves has a similar environment of barely-contained female sexuality and an accompanying moral opprobrium. I will examine the different paths that the films provide their heroines: in Gone to Earth, the gypsy woman.s .inherent. nature and the foreclosed moral judgement of the village folk lead to her inexorable demise; Rosaleen, the girl in The Company of Wolves, questions and transgresses the repressive aphorisms that would seek to restrain her burgeoning sexuality. The thematic similarities of the two films.their depictions of primitive village life populated by wilful young women and predatory men; their engagement with preternatural, .magical. phenomena.are striking and help us understand some of the perpetuated commonplaces that relate to female and male sexual behaviour (and how they manifest themselves in terms of gender performance).
Robert Murphy: Powell and Pressburger.s Men
One of the distinctive features of Powell and Pressburger.s films is their deployment of enigmatic and powerful men. This is apparent in their films with Conrad Veidt (The Spy in Black and Contraband) and David Farrar (Black Narcissus, The Small Back Room and Gone to Earth), but is most remarkable in A Canterbury Tale, A Matter of Life and Death and The Red Shoes, where the characters played by Eric Portman, Roger Livesey and Anton Walbrook assume a magus-like resonance. In all three films these are men who act like gods but still have fallible human attributes. Their presence seems integral to P+P.s view of the world as exciting and dangerous but essentially benign. Unlike more familiar representations of strong men, they function less as a means of dominating and controlling women than as guides who offer resourceful men and women a path towards enlightenment and fulfilment.
I would like to examine:
· How far P+P.s representation of masculinity diverged from the roles men play in other 1940s British films
· To what extent these representations are dependent on the personas of particular actors
· The extent to which common threads can be drawn between the men in P+P.s films
· The way in which P+P.s representations of men are tied in with their sense of British national identity
· The way in which P+P might be said to flirt with, though never to embrace, misogyny
The fusion of English mysticism and European masonic traditions which might serve as a better context to explain the resonance of Powell and Pressburger.s films than what Raymond Durgnat labelled .the visual culture of Ye Olde Junke Shoppe..
Colin Sell: Powell, the Pastoral and the Piper
Children in Powell.s films.especially during and after the Second World War.offer contrasting perspectives. These vary from what may be termed .the child as adventurer. (the village boys in A Canterbury Tale and the eponymous The Thief of Baghdad) through .the child as observer/mediator. (Joseph Anthony in Black Narcissus) to .the child as enigmatic signifier. (the naked goatherd in A Matter of Life and Death). Whilst these rôles differ in size, I am arguing that their individual bearing on narrative structures collectively reflects the importance Powell places on the child in his .uvre. Given the period under discussion, it seems that the Powell-Pressburger output views the pre-adolescent youngster as more than a simple cipher for innocence, but rather coincides with national and even international attitudes towards children in the postwar, attitudes which changed and developed during the war years.
An assessment of Powell within this broader framework also involves discussing his choice of locale, since the above films show children in a range of British-rural or foreign-exotic mise-en-scènes, a sense of timelessness pervading both the ambience and the action. All this while Powell.s contemporaries were introducing child characters into primarily urban-set feature films.frequently with a whiff of social realism in the undertow. Yet, I would argue, the social and political critique surrounding the child is as alive in Powell as it is in Lean or Reed at this time. Thus the pipe-playing goatherd discovered on the dunes in A Matter of Life and Death needs to be read both as an important instigator of narrative and simultaneously as a figure representative of hope in a brave new world.
Robert Shail: Obsession and Destruction: Examining Michael Powell.s .Visionary Male.
In my essay on masculinity in Powell and Pressburger.s war films I drew on Richard Dyer.s model of star types to outline five characteristic versions of masculinity which appear in these films. This paper will focus on one of those types, .The Visionary., and will extend the analysis out to two further Michael Powell films. Beginning with the character of Thomas Colpeper in A Canterbury Tale (1944), the paper will follow the development of this type in the characters of Sammy Rice (David Farrar) in The Small Back Room (1949), Lermentov (Anton Walbrook) in The Red Shoes (1948) and Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm) in Peeping Tom (1960).
In their war films masculinity is often used as a means to argue for a set of values which are seen to be under threat. .The Visionary. as a type is often used to express these values in an extreme form or to underlie the degree of their importance. In A Canterbury Tale Colpeper is willing to go to bizarre lengths to defend his vision of England. By the time of The Small Back Room the realities of post-war Britain have left Sammy Rice as an isolated, damaged figure who is wrestling with his own demons. In The Red Shoes the conflict has shifted from one which circulates around notions of national identity to one in which art and culture are the ideals to be defended or pursued at all costs. Most disturbingly, in Peeping Tom the central character has been driven into madness and isolation, the singularity of his obsession marking him as a dangerous outsider.
The examination of this progression will allow for a discussion of how Powell.s romantic vision of masculinity and national identity moves gradually into ever more destructive and obsessive forms, perhaps mirroring the increasing degree to which Powell himself was marginalised within British film culture.
Anna Powell: The Language of Sensations: Synaesthesia and Affect in The Tales of Hoffmann
The Tales of Hoffmann offers an affective palette of opera, ballet and film Movement, song and music, .hot-house. colours and the special effects of animation stimulate the cinematic sensorium. They induce haptic sensations and synaesthesia. These visceral responses are difficult to account for by using theories of representation or narrative structure, which downplay the affective dynamic of the film. This paper draws on Deleuze.s work with cinematic affect to explore the sensory impact of Powell and Pressburger.s aesthetics and their induction of the .colouring sensation.. It focuses on the tale of Giulietta, with its magical transformations, iridescent colours and insistent tactility.
For Deleuze, cinema is not a purely visual, specular experience. It embraces the flux of corporeal sensation and sensory perception in the .machinic. connection of the embodied spectator with the body of the text. Felix Guattari asserts that aesthetics are viral in nature, being known through .affective contamination.. Deleuze.s theory of cinematic sensation also draws on the work of Henri Bergson, for whom the palette of stimuli and sensations is graded in intensity. This includes degrees of light, shades of colour and timbres of sound.
In the Venetian sequence, Powell and Pressburger.s over-saturated colours, distorted sounds and hallucinatory images make emphatic use of visual, aural and other stimuli to affect and move us. Colour, motion and animation have a direct affect on our mechanisms of perception before they reach a more advanced stage of cognitive processing. These perceptual and neurological processes include kinaesthesia (the sense of movement and bodily orientation in space); synaesthesia (the mixing of different sense modalities); and hapticity (interaction between vision and bodily feeling or tactility). I suggest that the sensory overload of Giulietta.s tale induces a special state of entrancement.
Leïla Ben-Ismaïl Wimmer: The Creation of an alternative canon: Peeping Tom and its critical reception in France
Michael Powell.s Peeping Tom (1960) and Alfred Hitchcock.s Psycho (1960) were both released in Paris in November 1960. While Psycho made the cover of Cahiers du cinéma and what the object of several articles, by contrast Peeping Tom was relegated under the heading .other films. and dismissed in a few lines. When Peeping Tom was released there was a widespread opinion, which went well beyond Cahiers du cinema, that British cinema, like the French cinema know as the tradition of quality, was stilted and lacked individuality.
At the same time, however, Positif published the first enthusiastic review of Peeping Tom, setting in motion a certain critical appeal for the film that would develop throughout the 1960s in Midi-Minuit fantastique, a film journal solely devoted to horror and the fantastic.
The intention of this paper is to consider a particular historical moment in French film criticism when across a decade, whereas British films had been dismissed in France as examples of .bad cinema., Michael Powell.s Peeping Tom acquired a cult following and was raised to a canonical status by a small section of French critics who led a campaign to have the film recognized in order to defend cinema as inherently fantastic.
The paper examines the centrality of surrealism to the development of an alternative film culture in the 50s and 60s to illustrate the way in which the cult of Peeping Tom emerged as a result of conflicting trends within French film culture and as a reaction against the dominant economy of cinephile taste, illustrated by Cahiers du cinema. In the process, the paper explores the transitory value of Peeping Tom in the transformation of British cinema.s reputation in France.