Category Archives: technicolor

9. ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ creative

I have made a little film to demonstrate the black and white to colour transition from ‘A Matter of Life and Death.’  It’s on flickr:

'A Matter of Life and Death' Creative

I’m especially pleased that I managed to film my Esther Williams swimsuit after hearing about her death last week – she is one of my favourites.

9. Joint 90th – ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ (1946)

I have been really looking forward to re-watching this film and what a lovely Sunday afternoon matinee it is.  A Matter of Life and Death is a romantic fantasy film created by the British writing-directing-producing team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, and set in England during the Second World War. It stars David Niven, Roger Livesey and  Kim Hunter.  It is the second Powell and Pressburger film on the list already, which is great.  It seems slightly odd that these beautifully made, but rather eccentrically British films are so appreciated.  I have heard that Martin Scorsese is a particular fan.

A lovely, comfy Sunday afternoon

A lovely, comfy Sunday afternoon

I have seen it before, when my lovely friend Nat bought me a Powell and Pressburger box set a few years ago, but I was interested to see it again after reading Jack Cardiff’s autobiography and looking with a new eye at all his inventiveness with technicolor. There was a great DVD extra on the disc about him too, which was very interesting. A Matter of Life and Death has always been my favourite Powell and Pressburger film, it has such a great concept and is envisioned perfectly. I always like a movie with a court scene, especially Mr Smith Goes to Washingon and An Anatomy of a Murder.

Like The Ladykillers, I always forget that it’s going to be in colour, but the technicolor black and white of ‘the other world’ gives it a strange, pearly quality that is perfect for a heaven type place. It seems so contrary to make ‘the other world’ black and white and earth colour, but it makes a strange sense, especially as the colour of earth is amazing, particularly the early sequences of Kim Hunter on the phone and Niven on the beach. It’s crazy how much make-up they all have to wear to compensate.  I love the meta qualities of the film, such as when the incompetent Conductor 71 comes down to earth and watches his lapel flower turn to colour (in a beautiful graphic match) and says ‘we are straved of Technicolor up there.’  The Technicolor cinematography is lovely, Jack Cardiff is suitably revered, but it is generally so crammed full of visual and technical details – the camera obscura, the graphic matches, the cross dissolves, filters and framing, the eyelid closing. Wonderful.

I really like the Communist aspect of ‘the other world’, the American captain has issues after clearly managing to get to the top, but it’s lovely that everyone has a report and all are treated equally. This must have been fairly political then. I also love the look of ‘the other world’, all the Art Deco features and the fact that it seems to be run by beautiful women. It looks like a beautiful, shiny Fred and Ginger musical set. The escalator is brilliant and was constructed to actually work – an impressive engineering feat.

David Niven has always been a favourite, ever since reading his autobiographies as a teenager and Roger Livesey is great and I loved him as Colonel Blimp. His voice  is very comforting and warm, like a hot chocolate on the sofa.  Pretty much a symbol for this whole film.

I also love luxuriating in such an amazing view of Britain. I know it’s romanticised, but I love the thought of them learning a Shakespeare play or the view of the village and the country house. People cycling around, playing chess and being so polite to each other. And the focus on a British voice and poetry. The attacks on British history in the court room scene are also interesting, its criticism and its support by Livesey. The French man is also an amazing stereotype – very funny, although I imagine a French viewer wouldn’t see it like that!

Creative:
Something technically interesting
Maybe the same thing in colour and black and white or turning from one to the other in the same shot like the change from the operation to heaven.
Focus on light
Montage of different features

4. Joint 93rd – ‘The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp’

The life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger is a classic of British cinema.  It stars a wonderful Roger Livesey as Colonel Candy, Deborah Kerr as a variety of great women and Anton Walbrook as a complex and sympathetic German character.  Something that caused controversy at the time, but reveals a liberal and cosmopolitan view that is lovely to see.  My ace friend Nat had given me a box set of eleven Powell & Pressburger films about three years ago so I have seen it before.  I have to admit that it isn’t one of my favourites (I much prefer A Matter of Life and Death and The Red Shoes), but it is always nice to see wartime British films.  I used to collect Utility/CC41 clothing and furniture and have always had an interest in that period of history.  I also enjoyed this film a lot more on the second viewing.

Colonel Blimp

I loved the tapestry opening sequence.  It was a weekend of good opening sequences, I especially enjoyed the neon lights in My Man Godfrey.  A good opening sequence is crucial in a film and sets the tone.  Obviously the Saul Bass era was especially rich, I will always remember dad showing me the opening of Walk on the Wild Side, but there are some great ones being made now.  The Catch Me If You Can  titles were lovely and lots of telly programmes make an effort with them – Mad Men, Dexter – that always makes me happy.
For some reason I never remember it being in colour and yet, of course, the beautiful Technicolor cinematography is crucial to its success.  It photographs the lush mise-en-scene perfectly.  I guess I think that Britain in the middle of the century was black and white.  I still have to check that The Ladykillers is in colour, it seems wrong.
The narrative is beautifully structured in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.  From the very complex initial present day Turkish bath sequence and transition in him coming out of the bath, weaving the cloth in a factory to show they are getting married to the use of taxidermy to show movement of time.  Surely the only time this has ever been done in a film?
Although this film has a focus on the male protagonist and war, there is a lot of proto-feminist ideas from Kerr’s character, such as what roles where left open to women and why she is a Governess.  I love that she is accused of being a Suffragette as an insult.
This film has some lovely messages.  It is obviously about friendships crossing borders, but it is also about lives past and to not let the young judge the old.
Creatives:
I think I want to focus on what is Britishness.  I could do this through words (I like the idea of British and American English being confused in the film), or images or moving images.

What a weekend!

I’m not very good on my own.  Never have been.  I finally lived alone at 28 for a year and learnt ways to enjoy it.  Most of them involved making my house obsessively neat and pretty, watching a lot of films, reading compulsively and having a drink or two.

I had the opportunity to re-live that time this weekend as M went away to London to see a gig.  I set myself up with an excellent film marathon on the Saturday afternoon and night, had a stash of film magazines to get through and watched one of my Top 100 films

.  film mags pic

3 dvds picture

 

I’m not going to gild the truth.  I didn’t get out of my pyjamas, I did employ the duvet, I did drink one too many Singapore Slings and I did review the films with my crocheted Hobbes.  I’m not ashamed, it was a great day.

Anyway – the films!  My Man Godfrey is amazing – I love William Powell and have added The Thin Man to my wishlist.  The two other films weren’t as amazing, but Jack Lemmon is in them so I don’t really care.

2. ‘Imitation of Life’ creative

On holiday in Norfolk I realised I had a good set of props to create my ‘Imitation of Life’ creative task.  In the lovely National Trust cottage they had a very cheesey still life print, some beautiful red roses and Mark had bought a retro butter churner.  These gave me the correct impressions of working class life, glamour, red and  a painted backdrop.  I tried to keep it fairly minimal and give that Technicolor static quality.