The British film-making partnership of Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger are considered one of the best director teams of all time, making a series of influential films in the 1940s and 50s. Their collaborations — 24 films between 1939 and 1972 – were mainly derived from original stories by Pressburger with the script written by Powell. Powell did most of the directing while Pressburger did most of the producing and also assisted with the editing, especially the way the music was used. The pair unusually chose to take double credit as writer-director-producer and to many were known as The Archers, with their iconic logo which was an arrow hitting its target. Early on in their career Michael Powell was already an experienced director, having worked his way up from making silent films. He first met Pressburger during his first film for Hungarian producer Alexander Korda. Emeric Pressburger, who had come from Hungary in 1935, already worked for Korda, and was asked to do some rewrites for the film. After the two collaborated with a run of anti-Nazi propaganda spy thrillers, most famously the 49th Parallel (1941), the pair decided to adopt a joint for writer-producer-director, while making reference to ‘The Archers’ in the credits of The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp in 1943. They immediately incorporated their own production company, Archers Film Productions, and adopted a distinctive target logo which began each film. The joint credit ‘Written, Produced and Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’ indicates their joint responsibility for their own work and that they weren’t beholden to any studio or other producers. They began to form a group of regular cast and crew members who were to work with them on many films over the next twelve years. Hardly any of these people were ever under contract to The Archers as they were hired film by film. Throughout the remainder of the war the two released a series of highly acclaimed films including A Canterbury Tale (1944), I Know Where I’m Going! (1945), A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Black Narcissus (1947), The Red Shoes (1948) and The Tales of Hoffmann (1951). Many of Powell and Pressburger’s films are known for being shot in glorious three-strip Technicolor with over-the-top color schemes, highly stylized sets, vibrant matte paintings and enchanting special effects. Their creative collaborative efforts have become influential and iconic for many young aspiring directors, most famously Martin Scorsese whose Film Foundation has played a key part in many of their films restorations. The two are now seen as an significant component in the history of British film and in 1981 Powell and Pressburger were recognized for their contributions to British cinema with the BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award, the most prestigious award given by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
There is a disturbing contrast between two different type of stories in Powell and Pressburger’s masterpiece The Red Shoes. One of the stories is a traditional Hollywood romance about a young ballerina who becomes an overnight sensation and falls in love with the composer of the ballet that inspired her. Then there’s another story that seems more […]