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.

8 comments:

dave said...

Really haunting--this works so well. Thanks for that!

Jonathan Lapper said...

I just wanted to say that I love Powell (as you're probably already aware) and enjoy any opportunity to see his work, even in music video style. My favorite remains Blimp followed by Black Narcissus, Red Shoes, A Matter of Life and Death & I Know Where I'm Going. All of these have either Roger Livesy, Anton Walbrook or Deborah Kerr or two of the three or all three. I think it's why they're my favorites, because I love all three of those actors so much.

Roger said...

wow...that red red red

There is something about the song that transforms the intense colors of that movie into a sinister pop-induced swirl of...stuff.

Have you seen Anton Corbijn's Control: that movie on the lead singer of Joy Division?

Cinephile said...

Dave-- glad you liked it. If you haven't seen the original film, it's even more haunting, and definitely worth Netflixing.

Jonathan-- I think Roger Livesay is to Powell what Joel McCrea is to Preston Sturges-- the actor who best embodies their worldview, and becomes the best vehicle for their individual mixtures of comedy and drama. I love all the films you mentioned, and also have a great fondness for A CANTEBURY TALE, recently done up in a beautiful Criterion DVD. I also reaaally like Small Back Room, and wish it would be released in a North American DVD (one of these days I'll have to get a region-free player, as BFI has a lovely disc of it).

Cinephile said...

Roger-- yeah, the red is wonderfully overpowering, isn't it? Thanks for the reminder about the Corbijn film-- I'm hoping it gets to Cleveland soon, as it sounds great (and I like his photography and music videos a lot).

pc said...

From a Joy Division fan who is not a film nerd, the song title it "She's Lost Control", not "Love Will Tear Us Apart", which also might have worked well with the footage. (that was Kim)

Patrick says, very interesting video. I suppose someone could find some links between that curious manchester music environment that gave rise to early post-punk (god I hate that term bands) like Joy Division who moved steadily away from the raw energy of punk, first with the restrained atmospherics of Joy Div. and then into the all out synth dance of New Order...I don't know enough about the film makers to make anything of it though. Kinda curious that the film titles you mention "contraband" and "small back room" could easily be joy division album titles ("closer", "still", "unknown pleasures") Patrick

Cinephile said...

Hey Patrick (and Kim!),
Yeah, I know, but since the masher (not me) had chosen the one song, I wanted a different one for the post title, esp since "Love Will Tear Us Apart" could be the alternate title for the whole movie. Love the observation about the album titles, too!

Nelson325 said...

hey guys, im glad you liked the vid. Im a really big powell/Pressburger fan and my favorites are Black Narcisus, A Matter of Life and Death and of course The Red Shoes! Powell's Pepping Tom is also one of my faves, though it doesnt have Pressburger's involment.

From what i can remember, i was just playing random songs on my ipod hoping to find something that fiited with The Red Shoes. Joy Division came along, and it just felt RIGHT. Maybe if i wouldve listened to "Love will tear us apart" first then that might have been the song, but at the time, She's Lost Control just felt right.

Im gonna see if i can aquire some more of their films cause up till now all I have is my copy of Red Shoes and the TCM schedule to try and see if i can catch their films there.