Realscreen »Archive» Martin Scorsese to EP, narrate feature doc on filmmaking duo The Archers

Martin Scorsese will narrate and executive produce a forthcoming feature documentary on Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, one of the most lauded and influential filmmaking duos in the history of British cinema.

Coming to prominence in the 1940s, the English Powell and the Hungarian-born Pressburger (pictured left) joined forces under the banner of their production company The Archers to create a series of films that redefined the staid reputation of British cinema of the time. Beginning with a series of slick, Hitchcockian wartime thrillers such as The Spy in Black, Smuggling and 49th Parallelthe Archers reached a new level with The Life and Death of Colonel Blimpa movingly tragicomic epic about a career military man.

Blimp‘s conceit of having the three loves of its hero’s life all played by the same actress (the soon-to-be-famous Deborah Kerr) gave early indication of Powell and Pressburger’s fondness for the fantastical, which soon found full expression in the witty afterlife fantasy A Matter of Life and Deaththe deliriously erotic Black Narcissus and The Red Shoesa romantic drama set in the world of ballet that became a huge critical and commercial success in both Britain and the US

The duo’s success began to wane in the 1950s, and Powell became a persona non grata in the British film industry after he wrote and directed (without Pressburger) the 1960 serial-killer thriller Peeping Tom. Following many years of sporadic employment, Powell was rediscovered in the 1970s thanks to his American admirers Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, who helped him find teaching posts in the US and spurred retrospectives of his work with Pressburger, which by that point had been largely forgotten. .

“I still find it extraordinary that I knew Michael Powell personally for 16 years,” said Scorsese (pictured right) in a release announcing the new documentary. “Throughout that time, he was not only a support, but a guide, pushing me along, giving me confidence, keeping me bold in my own work.

“For me, [the Archers’] body of work is a wondrous presence, a constant source of energy, and a reminder of what life and art are all about. ”

The as-yet-untitled documentary will be helmed by BAFTA- and Emmy-winning filmmaker David Hinton, who previously made an hour-long profile of Powell for ITV’s The South Bank Show in 1986.

BBC Film will fund the doc, along with the National Lottery and the Scottish government through Screen Scotland. Altitude Media Group will handle international sales of the film, and its distribution wing will release it in the UK and Ireland.

Producers are Nick Varley for Ten Thousand 86 and Matt Wells for Ice Cream Films. Scorsese will serve as executive producer, along with Rose Garnett and Mark Bell for the BBC, Mark Thomas for Screen Scotland, and Will Clarke for Altitude.

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