Cinema Unbound

The Creative Worlds of Powell and Pressburger

Jun 21–Jul 31, 2024


The Tales of Hoffmann. 1951. UK. Directed by Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger. Courtesy Rialto Pictures/Studiocanal
  • MoMA, Floor T2/T1 The Debra and Leon Black Family Film Center

In close collaboration with the BFI (British Film Institute), MoMA is proud to present a comprehensive retrospective honoring the legendary filmmaking duo of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, creators of such classic films as The Red Shoes, A Matter of Life and Death, and Black Narcissus. This series, the largest and most wide-ranging exploration of their work ever undertaken, celebrates Powell and Pressburger’s cultural legacy and enduring influence.

The series features several 35mm prints, as well as new digital restorations of such Powell and Pressburger classics as The Small Back Room, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, and The Tales of Hoffmann. Of special interest to cinephiles is a section devoted to Michael Powell’s early work as a director in the UK’s “quota quickie” sector, low-budget films made to satisfy the government’s requirement that a certain percentage of films in theaters be of British origin. The program includes all 13 of Powell’s quota quickies known to exist, from Rynox (1931) to The Man Behind the Mask (1936), in newly remastered editions from the BFI National Archive. Many of these films will be screening in the US for the first time.

Rarely screened films from Powell’s late period will include Oh . . .Rosalinda!!, The Battle of the River Plate, Peeping Tom, and his long-unavailable 1963 adaptation of Bela Bartok’s opera Bluebeard’s Castle. The latter two titles are newly restored by the BFI National Archive and the Film Foundation.

True cinematic visionaries and innovators, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger worked together on 24 films from between 1939 and 1972, with Powell handling direction and Pressburger responsible for the scripts—though their duties blended often enough that, for the films they produced together as The Archers, their credit read, “Directed and written by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.” The Archers worked with an exceptionally talented group of longtime collaborators who helped craft and deliver their narrative worlds. These included production designer Alfred Junge, production designer and costume designer Hein Heckroth, cinematographer Jack Cardiff, sketch artist Ivor Beddoes, art director Arthur Lawson, and composer Brian Easdale, as well as on-screen collaborators including Roger Livesey, Anton Walbrook, Moira Shearer, Deborah Kerr, Kathleen Byron, and Sabu.

Organized at BFI by Robin Baker, Head of Cultural Partnerships, James Bell, Senior Curator of Fiction Film, and Claire Smith, Senior Curator of Special Collections, and at MoMA by Dave Kehr, Curator, and Olivia Priedite, Film Program Coordinator, Department of Film.



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