Monday, November 12, 2007
Mash-Ups: Love Will Tear Us Apart
In a decade full of remarkable films and filmmakers, Powell & Pressburger might just be the 1940s' greatest auteurs, or at least the most fabulous, in all senses of the word. In a remarkable run between Contraband (1940) and The Small Back Room (1949), they offered a cinema at once earthy and fantastical, cynical and romantic, theatrical and filmic, and committed to a humanist belief in the power of the imagination to transform the everyday (and, crucially, for the everyday to return the favor). They utterly demolished that Bazinian split between reality and plastics-- their reality was plastics, and both ends of the binary thrived and pulsed in tension with one another. One of the most mind-altering moviewatching experiences I've had was seeing about a dozen of their films in a two-week period a couple of summers ago, and The Red Shoes will always be my favorite of the bunch. I never tire of its blood-red mise-en-scene, its knowingly affected dialogue, its evocation of a long-passed culture, or its poetic mixture of camerawork, dance, music and melodrama.
Others more knowledgeable than I will have to fill in the Joy Division part of the equation-- everything I know comes from Greil Marcus and 24-Hour Party People-- but I do like the matched rhythms of sound and image in the clip above. The ease with which Shoes' climax becomes a music video is a reminder of how modern Powell & Pressburger were, and the blend reminds that even punks and new wavers have that strain of child-like, Romantic longing in their souls.