Today: April 19, 2024

BFI Publishing celebrates Powell & Pressburger

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger were true visionaries of British cinema; enormously influential, and always celebrated. Across 24 films between 1939 and 1972, the collaborators gifted us with some of the most glorious films in cinema history, with The Red Shoes, A Matter of Life and Death, Black Narcissus just a small handful of their works. BFI recently announced Cinema Unbound: The Creative Worlds of Powell and Pressburger, a celebration of the groundbreaking duo, to take place from 16 October to 31 December 2023. Promising a major BFI Southbank season, UK-wide cinema re-releases, and more, this celebration looks to offer the definitive Powell and Pressburger experience for fans and newcomers alike.

Also released as part of this celebration is two wonderful books from BFI Publishing, celebrating these iconic filmmakers and digging deeper into their celebrated works. 

First off, a beautiful large hardback exploration of the duo and their collaborators is not just a wonderful companion to the BFI’s exhibition and programme but also a wonderful book of cinema history. Packed with unseen archive materials from the BFI vault and private collections, every page brings a new surprise. It is a truly gorgeous book, befitting the filmmaking pair’s eye for the lavish and beautiful. 

Also released is another entry in the BFI Film Classics range, this time focusing on The Red Shoes, one of their very best and most influential works. Written by Pamela Hutchinson – regular Sight & Sound and Guardian contributor – the book examines every aspect of the film and considers its deeper meanings, while going on to discuss its enduring legacy and influence on contemporary filmmakers. 

Both of the above are essential for any film enthusiast’s bookshelf. Whether you’ve spent many hours in Powell and Pressburger’s magical and colourful worlds or you’re about to embark on your first journey, these books are filled with fascinating insight and show just why this pair of filmmakers are celebrated across the world to this day.

The Cinema of Powell and Pressburger 

Hardback, 5 October 2023

Delving into their magical, mystical and obsessive worlds, this lavishly illustrated publication – which ties in with a major BFI exhibition and film programme – presents fresh perspectives on the film-making duo, shining the spotlight not only on them, but also on their circle of talented collaborators, including cinematographer Jack Cardiff, designers Alfred Junge and Hein Heckroth and composers Brian Easdale and Allan Gray. The book’s high profile contributors consider the concept of influence, too: those who had an impact on Powell and Pressburger’s creative development, and the vast range of contemporary voices – from director Martin Scorsese to musician Kate Bush – who have found themselves haunted by their stories and images. Drawing on the BFI’s stunning design and archive collections, as well as key objects held in other public and private collections, many of the images presented here are unique, previously unseen and unpublished.

BFI Film Classics: The Red Shoes

Paperback, 5 October 2023

Pamela Hutchinson‘s study of The Red Shoes examines its breathtaking use of Technicolor, music, choreography, editing and art direction at the zenith of Powell and Pressburger’s capacity for ‘composed cinema’. Through a close reading of key scenes, particularly the film’s famous extended ballet sequence, she considers the unconventional use of ballet as uncanny spectacle and the feminist implications of the central story of female sacrifice. Hutchinson goes on to consider the film’s lasting and wide-reaching influence, tracing its impact on the film musical genre and horror cinema, with filmmakers such as Joanna Hogg, Sally Potter, and Brian De Palma having cited the film as an inspiration.

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