Cinema Unbound: The Creative Worlds of Powell and Pressburger, a major BFI UK-wide film celebration of one of the greatest and most enduring filmmaking partnerships in the history of cinema: Michael Powell (1905 to 1990) and Emeric Pressburger (1902 to 1988), best known for their iconic films including The Red Shoes (1948), A Matter of Life and Death (1946) and Black Narcissus (1947), comes to big screens nationwide this autumn. Today we announce a UK-wide programme, funded by National Lottery, with over 56 special events and screenings, in the first round, supported in partnership by BFI Film Audience Network (BFI FAN).
The UK-wide celebration kicks off this autumn on the big screen with the BFI Distribution re-release of I Know Where I’m Going! (1945), back in UK-wide cinemas from 20 October. I Know Where I’m Going! was recently restored by the BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation in association with ITV and Park Circus, with funding for the restoration provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation with additional support provided by Matt Spick.
BFI Distribution is also re-releasing the iconic dance film The Red Shoes (1948), in honour of its 75th anniversary from 8 December. The Red Shoes was previously restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive in association with the BFI, The Film Foundation, ITV Global Entertainment Ltd., and Janus Films. Restoration funding for the film was provided by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, The Film Foundation, and the Louis B. Mayer Foundation. Both restorations have been licensed from Park Circus/ITV. A new restoration of Peeping Tom (1960) restored by the BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation in association with Studiocanal will be released in UK cinemas by Studiocanal on 27 October.
Studiocanal will also be unveiling a new 4K restoration of The Small Back Room (1949) as part of Cinema Unbound. Restored by the BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation in association with Studiocanal, The Small Back Room will be available via Studiocanal as well as a first ever DCP print for Oh…Rosalinda!! (1955).
BFI FAN partners nationwide will also be able to book classic Powell and Pressburger’s titles, A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Black Narcissus (1947), and double bills of The Edge of the World (1937) + Return to the Edge of the World (1978) as well as the recent restoration of Michael Powell’s Bluebeard’s Castle (1964) + The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (1955). Bluebeard’s Castle (1964) has been restored by the BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation in association with The Ashbrittle Film Foundation, with funding provided by the BFI National Archive, The Louis B. Mayer Foundation and The Film Foundation. The sublime new restoration of Bluebeard’s Castle (1964) will also be released by the BFI in a Dual format edition (DVD & Blu-ray) in November.
Following the huge success of the inaugural BFI Film on Film Festival in June, the season will offer UK-wide audiences a chance to experience the magic of seeing films projected on film, with 35mm print screenings of Black Narcissus (1947), The Red Shoes (1948), The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) and The Tales of Hoffmann (1951), with new prints made with funding from the National Lottery and the additional support of donors to the BFI’s Keep Film on Film campaign.
Programme highlights up and down the UK and Northern Ireland include aroma-focused immersive screenings of Black Narcissus (1947) in Chester, Brighton and Glasgow, and a series of screenings in Orkney, Mull, the Isle of Tiree and Oban celebrating Powell and Pressburger’s island films including I Know Where I’m Going! (1945) and The Edge of the World (1937).
Special screenings are planned at Much Wenlock, Shropshire, the location for Gone to Earth (1950), and Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens, West Sussex, one of the key filming locations for Black Narcissus (1947). Other event highlights include an immersive screening of The Red Shoes (1948) at Exeter Cathedral and A Matter of Life and Death (1946) at Nympsfield Airfield Aerodrome, Gloucestershire. Plus, Powell and Pressburger film seasons at cinemas across the country from Cardiff, Derry, Belfast, Glasgow, Nottingham and Sheffield, to Dundee, Folkestone, Cambridge and Manchester.
Programme highlights by region
Working with New Media Scotland, Storyhouse (Chester) are hosting immersive screenings of Black Narcissus (1947) that focus on aroma, wind and volumetric light. In collaboration with Caron, the perfume house in Paris that formulated the original ‘Narcisse Noir’ scent that features in the film, and the tech start-up Moodo in Tel Aviv, the screenings will feature synchronised dispersion of aroma along with three other contextual scents. In addition, synchronised wind effects will sensitively transport the audience to the high cliff in the Himalayas where the dilapidated palace depicted on screen is situated. This event at Storyhouse (19 November) will tour to Scotland (26 November, Glasgow Film Theatre as part of GFT’s curated Powell and Pressburger season, (from 20 October) and Brighton (12 November, Fabrica).
Cardiff-based Chapter will be hosting an in-depth programme (starting 21 October) about the Welsh connections to Powell and Pressburger and themes of Spirituality, Sex and Obsession in their work, opening with a reintroduction to Barry-born actor Roger Livesey, who starred in films including, I Know Where I’m Going! (1945), A Matter of Life and Death (1946) and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943). For Halloween they will discuss Peeping Tom’s (1960) impact on the evolution of the horror genre; the influence of Christianity, particularly the concepts of eternal life and sacrifice, as well as the spectre of temptation and sex; finishing with the corrosion caused by obsession.
The Dragon Theatre in Barmouth will also be screening Powell and Pressburger’s classic films I Know Where I’m Going! (1945), A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Black Narcissus (1947) and The Red Shoes (1948) including being joined virtually by film author Pamela Hutchinson, who has written a new BFI Film Classic on The Red Shoes, published by Bloomsbury on 7 October, for a post-screening discussion on the film, celebrating its 75th anniversary.
Nerve Centre in Derry will be putting on Powell and Pressburger: Fantasy and Wonder, a season of films and events (from 18 October) which will introduce new audiences to the work of Powell and Pressburger by tracing their cinematic DNA in some of our finest contemporary filmmakers. By highlighting their influence on Martin Scorsese, Wim Wenders and the grandsons of Emeric Pressburger, Andrew and Kevin Macdonald, Nerve Centre’s eclectic programme will reveal that the legacy of Powell and Pressburger is a vibrant part of the modern cinema. A special screening of The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) will take place on the closing weekend of the Foyle Film Festival (November 17-26) alongside a series of masterclasses and lectures exploring their enduring influence with leading industry figures.
Partnering with Outburst Queer Arts Festival and Ghouls on Film, Queen’s Film Theatre (QFT) will screen 10 titles, covering the filmmakers’ key titles and lesser-known works, ripe for rediscovery (16 October – 14 December). Black Narcissus (1947), A Matter of Life and Death (1946), I Know Where I’m Going! (1945), A Canterbury Tale (1944) and The Tales of Hoffmann (1951) also screen as part of the Belfast International Arts Festival, which takes place throughout Belfast from 12 October – 5 November. Accompanying events include an immersive event and dance performance presented by LUMI (QFT’S young programmers) and Ghouls on Film, of Dario Argento’s giallo horror Suspiria (1977), exploring the aesthetic and thematic influence of Powell and Pressburger (21 October), and an Outburst discussion around queer coding.
You can also see the films of Powell and Pressburger where they were intended: on the big screen, in Northern Ireland’s oldest surviving 1930s picture house – Strand Arts Centre – with a programme of screenings and events (from 11 November) celebrating the filmmakers’ most iconic films as well as highlighting their legacy and continued influence on filmmakers by showing contemporary films indebted to their work.
Screen Argyll will focus on the island films of Powell and Pressburger with a series of screenings at venues on Orkney, Mull, the Isle of Tiree and Oban (from 17 September) including I Know Where I’m Going! (1945) and The Edge of the World (1937).
Dundee Contemporary Arts (from 25 October) will look at some of the most memorable, creative and influential films of Powell and Pressburger from the Scottish romantic comedy, I Know Where I’m Going! (1945) to the glorious Technicolour feast The Red Shoes (1948).
In Inverness (at Eden Court) and across community cinemas in the Highlands (from 3 November) the lifelong creative partnership and legacy of Powell and Pressburger on cinema is celebrated, with a programme launched at the 21st edition of Eden Court’s Inverness Film Festival (3-9 November), including an in-person event screening of The Red Shoes (1948) with The Red Shoes BFI Film Classic author Pamela Hutchinson for a post-film discussion.
In Glasgow, Glasgow Film Theatre will feature a wide range of Powell and Pressburger titles from October — December, many of them screening on 35mm, including Black Narcissus (1947) and The Spy in Black (1939). They will welcome guests to discuss the enduring legacy of films in the season including The Red Shoes (1948) BFI Film Classic author Pamela Hutchinson, Scotsman film critic Alistair Harkness and archive activist film collective,Invisible Women, plus introductions from Emeric Pressburger’s grandsons, Oscar-winning filmmaker Kevin Macdonald and Trainspotting producer, Andrew Macdonald. Glasgow Artists’ Moving Image Studios (GAMIS) will present a bold season in January 2024 that focuses a contemporary lens on the challenging themes in the Powell and Pressburger archive by platforming artists and directors working in film today. Expect thoughtful conversation, high-campery and Kate Bush karaoke!
The National Science and Media Museum (NSMM) in Bradford, home to the Technicolour three-strip camera used by Jack Cardiff in the filming of a number of Powell and Pressburger’s iconic films, will host introduced screenings of A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Black Narcissus (1947) and The Red Shoes (1948) showcasing the incredible cinematography of Jack Cardiff and the fruits of his creative collaboration with Powell and Pressburger (from 15 October).
Sheffield’s Showroom Cinema promotes a wider programme of titles that will reposition Powell and Pressburger amongst the most inspiring film artists that Britain has ever produced (from 1 November). These include a Film on Film season of ‘The Early Works of Powell and Pressburger’, and a season of Technicolor films made by Jack Cardiff in the decade following his work on The Red Shoes (1948). The cinema of Powell and Pressburger was subtly radical in both production and themes, and as filmmakers ahead of their time, the influence of their films has been far reaching. Showroom’s programme includes a mini-season of creative responses to the works of Powell and Pressburger across music, dance and film.
HOME in Manchester (from 20 October) examines the lasting influence of the filmmaker’s dazzling films through connections with current filmmakers and local creatives; as well as season programme strands tackling the representation of race and empire in the films; exploring the importance of place and the connections between place and personality; as well as taking a closer look at the notion of Britishness alongside propaganda films and in depth celebration of The Red Shoes on its 75th anniversary.
Lucid Dreaming from Flatpack Festival will shed new light on the work of Powell and Pressburger through a series of special events in Shropshire and Birmingham. Acting as a curtain-raiser is a special screening of the 1949 adaptation of Mary Webb’s Gone to Earth in Much Wenlock (28 October), Webb’s hometown and the film’s principal location. Bournville’s spectacular Serbian Orthodox Church plays host to A Matter of Life and Death (November) followed by a series of talks and screenings at MAC in Birmingham where audiences will have a chance to delve into a range of themes from Orientalism and ballet, to PTSD and Kate Bush.
Broadway Cinema in Nottingham, will screen a season curated by local Nottingham, under 25 film collective, Lounge Trip, regular Broadway programme partners, exploring Powell and Pressburger’s attitude towards style and extravagance (from November to December). This includes screenings and talks with a selection of iconic Powell and Pressburger titles and work from contemporary filmmakers that widen the scope of British filmmaking, to take a more stylised approach than the stereotype of gritty social-realist dramas. Alongside the screenings, Lounge Trip will invite young Nottingham artists and writers to respond to the films, the results of which will be published in a zine to accompany the season.
Days of Wonder presented by the FILM/GAGE team in Birmingham (1 October) is a fantastical immersive journey into the British legacy of Powell and Pressburger’s cinematic worlds with a programme of screenings and behind the scenes discussions and events, exploring their lasting creative influence, introducing audiences to worlds of fantasy and days of wonder.
In Folkestone, Kent, just a few miles from Powell’s birthplace, Powell and Pressburger are being celebrated with an adventurous multi-site programme of expanded cinema events (from 8 October) built around a core series of classic weekend matinee cinema screenings at The Silver Screen Cinema Folkestone , creating multiple access points for the diverse communities of Folkestone to discover the filmmakers. The project makes bedrock links with Kent’s landscape and wartime heritage, celebrating local hero Michael Powell, while collaborating with the Folkestone’s creative community to explore their legacy, from Derek Jarman to artists working today. Highlights include a free open air launch screening of A Matter of Life and Death (1946) at the Harbour Screen, In Prospero’s Room, a special installation at Prospect Cottage in Dungeness in partnership with Creative Folkestone, and an immersive XR Creative Lab and exhibition inspired by The Red Shoes (1948), presented by Screen South at The Brewery Tap.
CineCity present three distinctive, inter-connected activities around Black Narcissus (1947), taking place across the South East. This includes a site-specific immersive event at Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens in West Sussex (24 November — 21 December) – where parts of Black Narcissus were filmed, part of Leonardslee Illuminated. This will be supported by cinema screenings in Horsham and Brighton, the latter a Narcisse Noir-perfume enhanced screening complemented by Nuns are Always Box Office Aren’t They?, taking Michael Powell’s quote as the title, for a wall-mounted display of dozens of still portraits, celebrating the enduring appeal of film nuns including, Deborah Kerr, Kathleen Byron, Ingrid Bergman, Audrey Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave, Anne Bancroft, Maggie Smith, Gemma Arterton and more.
Cambridge Film Festival’s (19-26 October) Powell and Pressburger season Through the Looking Glass spotlights the roles of women in their work, alongside the importance of set design, costume and partnership in the fantastical world-building of the duo’s post-war films. The programme will explore these themes through screenings of films by Powell and Pressburger as well as filmmakers whose work has been influenced by them and includes discussions and conversations with leading figures in the industry, including an In Conversation session and a screening of Sally Potter’s Orlando (1992). The season will feature screenings of I Know Where I’m Going! (1945), The Red Shoes (1948) and The Tales of Hoffmann (1951).
Exeter Phoenix presents a breathtaking cinematic spectacle with an immersive screening of The Red Shoes (1948) at Exeter’s iconic Cathedral (28 November). Dancers will greet audiences and the fizz will flow before the screening with a special guest introduction. The grand finale to a season of films and events presented with the Bill Douglas Museum, (from 12 October), featuring titles both by Powell and Pressburger as well as films inspired by the creative duo, alongside shorts and specialised talks from industry experts.
In Bristol, Jack Cardiff’s inspired Technicolor cinematography for Powell and Pressburger with be at the core of Watershed’s Powell and Pressburger programme (from 1 December), launching with an expanded, late-night Technicolor extravaganza with DJ Cheeba and culminating in a site-specific showing of Black Narcissus (1947) at The Mount Without, a breath-taking converted church. Watershed’s programme aims to explore the place of Technicolor within film history, through a focus on the use of the process by Jack Cardiff in the works of Powell and Pressburger, expanding out to take in a range of titles over the heyday of Technicolor through to its gradual decline in use by the 1970s.
Stroud Film Festival will be holding two screenings; Black Narcissus (1947) in Avening church hall, including a walk around the village leading to the churchyard and a pilgrimage to Michael Powell’s grave. The screening will include a streamed Q&A with Michael Powell’s son, Columba Powell, hosted by Ian Christie. A Matter of Life and Death (1946) is screening at Nympsfield Airfield Aerodrome with a Q&A panel with renowned editor, Pip Heywood, and local young filmmakers.
More projects will be supported throughout the season via ‘screening support’ awards of up to £500 towards licence fees, marketing costs and speaker fees.
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