Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger take equal credit for a unique screen partnership that wrote, produced and directed some of British cinema's most enduring and influential masterpieces. The Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA)'s "Restored Treasures" series will screen two of their most acclaimed films in August and September.
The films are "A Matter of Life and Death", which was restored at a cost of about US$150,000, and "Black Narcissus", famous for its sumptuous cinematography. They will be shown respectively at 2pm on August 7 and September 4 at the Cinema of the HKFA.
Two post-screening talks are scheduled. HKFA programmer Mr Sam Ho and film critic Mr Matthew Cheng will hold a discussion after the screening of "A Matter of Life and Death". The session will be conducted in Cantonese. For the post-screening talk on "Black Narcissus", Mr Sam Ho and film critic Mr James Marsh will share their views with audiences in English.
Powell and Pressburger produced a series of highly accomplished films during their long collaboration. While their films were not always critically praised or commercially successful at the time, they are now widely acknowledged as cinematic visionaries ahead of their time. Filmmakers including Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola cited "The Red Shoes", "A Matter of Life and Death" and some of their other films as having a profound effect on their own work.
Regarded as one of the greatest British films of all time, "A Matter of Life and Death" (1964) is a delightful fantasy that asks bold questions about mortality, faith and the afterlife. Starring David Niven and Kim Hunter, it was Powell and Pressburger's first film using colour - a daring mix of black-and-white and dazzling technicolor. A British airman miraculously survives after his bomber crash lands. He then meets the American radio operator who he conversed before the crash, and falls in love. When informed that his survival is a "mistake", he refuses to be summoned to the afterlife and demands a hearing.
The film was restored by Sony Pictures in cooperation with the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and the British Film Institute (BFI). The picture restoration process was completed using photochemicals and the soundtrack was digitally re-mastered.
In "Black Narcissus" (1947), five nuns set up a convent in the distant Himalayas intending to minister to the local population, but their mission is hampered by inner demons. Sister Superior, played by Deborah Kerr, is on the run from a salacious past and struggles with her attraction to a dashing British agent. Another beautiful yet unstable sister also makes a bid for his affections. The HKFA will screen the restored version, which was released in 2005 by BFI Distribution to celebrate the centenary of Michael Powell's birth. The restoration was carried out by ITV Studios under the supervision of cinematographer Jack Cardiff and Powell's widow, Oscar-winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker Powell.
Both films are in English with English subtitles.
Tickets priced at $50 are available at URBTIX outlets. Half-price concessionary tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. 10 per cent discount for each purchase of tickets for both screenings. Credit card bookings can be made on 2111 5999, or on the Internet at www.urbtix.hk .
Detailed programme information can be found in the "ProFolio 58" leaflet distributed at all performing venues of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. For enquiries, please call 2739 2139 or 2734 2900, or browse the websites www.filmarchive.gov.hk or www.lcsd.gov.hk/fp .
Ends/Wednesday, July 13, 2011