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Director: David Hinton
Stars: Martin Scorsese, Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

Summary: Martin Scorsese reflects on the influence of filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, whose decades-long collaboration resulted in a series of classics that made the duo a crucial part of British cinema.

When Martin Scorsese described his first cinematic adventures in 1995, A personal journey with Martin Scorsese through the American filmhe structured this journey by dividing the films of the directors he highlighted into four categories. There was the director as storyteller, with Scorsese focusing on westerns, gangster films and musicals; as an illusionist, like DW Griffith and FW Murnau; as a smuggler, like Douglas Sirk, Samuel Fuller and Vincente Minnelli – filmmakers who hid subversive messages in their works; and as an iconoclast – filmmakers who took aim at social conventions, including Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Elia Kazan and Stanley Kubrick.

The above filmmakers are all icons, each deserving of a retrospective of their own. But it is fitting that the two men Scorsese has supported most over the years, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, are the first to receive such treatment from him himself, in the form of David Hinton’s Made in England: The films of Powell & Pressburger. Scorsese tells a sprawling story of the duo’s collaboration as he saw it: with enthusiasm and admiration. His unique connection to Powell & Pressburger’s work turns what might otherwise serve as a sober documentary about a legendary filmography into a much more personal journey through an inimitable yet influential body of work. And of course, it helps that Scorsese happens to be one of the seminal filmmakers of his generation, if not le grand fromage; all the more reason to enjoy the journey.

For many viewers, this journey may be unknown. The red shoes will no doubt set off alarm bells for most Criterion Channel subscribers, most of the films from The Archers – Powell and Pressburger’s production company – initially remained shrouded from the general public for years. That was not the case for Scorsese, who first saw their work on a colorless television set that spoiled the sheer beauty of Powell and Pressburger’s Technicolor fever dreams. Regardless, for young Marty, their films were alive on any screen. The Archers’ landscapes, often bathed in red, fed his senses; the duo’s title cards, which always read “Written, produced and directed by” Powell and Pressburger, were a source of endless curiosity. Who was Strictly speaking Directed? Who wrote these scripts? How did they, as a duo, come away with such unique mastery?

Of course, we can answer these questions ourselves with the knowledge we have today. (Powell directed the film; both contributed stories from Pressburger to the screenplay; out of sheer conviction, I suppose?) But Scorsese had to find out for himself, as he tells us, and set out to find out the truth early in his career. He met Powell in 1975, shortly after Witches Cauldron And Alice no longer lives here. Scorsese recalls expressing admiration for the work of The Archers, noting that Powell was quiet and reserved but was moved that American filmmakers such as Scorsese, Brian de Palma and Francis Ford Coppola adored his films. (Powell specifically noted that Scorsese’s praise made him “feel the blood running through his veins.”) For Scorsese, Powell and Pressburger were different from the David Leans, Carol Reeds and Alfred Hitchcocks of this world, the so-called “mythical creatures of British film.” They were doing something completely different; perhaps that was what attracted people like de Palma and Coppola to their work.

But what Scorsese brings Made in England is something that few others of a similar ilk – and there are very few – can offer: a perspective rooted in auteurship. Not only does he possess a keen appreciation for how The Archers tended to use a familiar troupe of actors in each of his projects, something Scorsese himself does, but he has even taken some of the stylistic trademarks of Powell and Pressburger and incorporated them into his own films. Witches Cauldron is as red as it is, thanks to, you guessed it, The red shoes; Powell even found it “too red”. The age of innocence And Black Narcissus have more in common than you think; the next time you have a double function of Wild Bull And Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Note the similarities between Jake LaMotta’s long journey from the tunnel to the boxing ring and Colonel Blimp’s early duel. In Made in EnglandScorsese notes how Airship neglects the duel itself to focus on the relationship between the participants; in Wild Bullit also focuses more on LaMotta’s life than on the fights he takes part in.

Made in England is as much a lesson in filmmaking as it is an appreciation of the great works of two collaborators who saw it as their duty to challenge, if not completely overturn, the conventions of modern filmmaking. Scorsese, who had a relationship with and respect for the filmmakers in question, is the only guidebook that makes any sense for such a journey. His attraction to Powell & Pressburger is unrivaled, and the fact that they influenced his work so profoundly is a big part of what makes Hinton’s documentary so compelling. Not only will it make any cinephile want to rewatch its protagonist’s films as if they were their first, it will also make you clamor for more filmmakers to practice their craft with the same passion as Scorsese. You can’t buy authenticity. But you can flaunt it.

Degree: B+

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