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    Senior Member Country: Scotland julian_craster's Avatar
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    Scorsese: my friendship with Michael Powell



    He fell in love with The Red Shoes aged nine - now Martin Scorsese is bringing a glorious new print to Cannes. He talks about his debt to its director



    Scorsese: my friendship with Michael Powell | Film | The Guardian



    by Steve Rose

    The Guardian, Thursday 14 May 2009





    "Movie directors are desperate people. You're totally desperate every second of the day when you're involved in a film, through pre-production, production, post-production, and certainly when you're dealing with the press." Martin Scorsese isn't talking about his own career, but that of one of his heroes, the British director Michael Powell. And in particular, Scorsese is referring to the all-consuming creative passion Powell and Emeric Pressburger captured in their 1948 classic The Red Shoes. That swooning Technicolor tragedy was ostensibly set in the world of ballet, with Moira Shearer fatally torn between her personal and professional loyalties; equally, it is a portrait of artistic sacrifice and compromise in the film-makers' own industry. "Over the years, what's really stayed in my mind and my heart is the dedication those characters had, the nature of that power and the obsession to create," Scorsese says, before finding the right analogy in another Powell and Pressburger title: "It made it a matter of life and death, really."





    Had he not been so entranced by The Red Shoes as a boy, Scorsese might never have become a movie director. Watching the film for the first time - aged nine, at the cinema with his father - was the start of a lifelong relationship with Powell's movies, one that ultimately led to a friendship with the man himself; now, nearly 20 years after Powell's death, it extends to a stewardship of his legacy. Tomorrow, Scorsese will take the stage in Cannes to introduce a new restored print of The Red Shoes - a culmination, of sorts, to Scorsese's ongoing mission to rehabilitate his hero. Scorsese was instrumental not just in initiating the physical restoration of Powell and Pressburger's deteriorating back catalogue, but in restoring Powell's career and reputation when they were at their lowest ebb. He even, inadvertently, found him a wife.



    Scorsese considers Powell and Pressburger's run of films through the 1930s and 40s to be "the longest period of subversive film-making in a major studio, ever". But when Scorsese first met Powell, in 1975, that run had come to an abrupt halt. Peeping Tom, Powell's first effort as a solo director, had been released in 1960, and its combination of violence, voyeurism, nudity and general implication of the audience (not to mention the film industry, again) was too strong for the British censors and critics. He hadn't worked since. So he must have been somewhat taken aback to discover that an eager young American director was trying to track him down, and that other young American film-makers were going back to his work.



    "We'd been asking for years about Powell and Pressburger," says Scorsese. "There was hardly anything written about their films at that time. We wondered how the same man who made A Matter of Life and Death, The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus, and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp could also have made Peeping Tom. We actually thought for a while Michael Powell was a pseudonym being used by other film-makers."



    Scorsese came to Britain for the Edinburgh film festival with Taxi Driver, and a mutual contact arranged a meeting at a London restaurant. "He was very quiet and didn't quite know what to make of me," Scorsese recalls. "I had to explain to him that his work was a great source of inspiration for a whole new generation of film-makers - myself, Spielberg, Paul Schrader, Coppola, De Palma. We would talk about his films in Los Angeles often. They were a lifeblood to us, at a time when the films were not necessarily immediately available. He had no idea this was all happening."



    It's easy to forget how obscure most movies were in the days before DVD, video on demand, or even VHS. Studio boss J Arthur Rank lost faith in the commercial potential of The Red Shoes on first seeing it, and sent only a single print to the US. So for two years it played continuously at a single movie theatre in New York, before eventually breaking out to become a huge success, picking up Oscars in 1949 for best art direction and music. Scorsese saw it that first time in colour; after that, the only way to see such movies was on television. "Even with commercial breaks, in black and white, and cut to about an hour and a half, it still had a powerful magic," he says. "The vibrancy of the movie and the sense of colour in the storytelling actually came through. Then, eventually, the prize was to track down a 16mm Technicolor print. I was able to do that a few times." The rest of the Powell/Pressburger back catalogue Scorsese would track down one film at a time. "We were in a process of discovery."



    After Scorsese found him, Powell was taken to the US by Francis Ford Coppola and feted by his new Hollywood fans. They saw him as a kindred spirit: a fiercely independent film-maker who had fought for, and justified, the need for complete creative freedom. Coppola installed him as senior director-in-residence at his Zoetrope studios; he took teaching posts; retrospectives were held of his work; and the great and good of Hollywood queued up to meet him. Scorsese even had a cossack shirt made in the same style as that of Anton Walbrook's character in The Red Shoes, which he wore to the opening of Powell and Pressburger's 1980 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. To that event, Scorsese brought along his editor on Raging Bull, Thelma Schoonmaker. "Marty told me I had to go and see Colonel Blimp on the big screen," Schoonmaker later tells me. She introduced herself to Powell, they hit it off, and four years later they married.



    Schoonmaker, who still edits all Scorsese's films, experienced first-hand both Scorsese's worship of Powell and his subsequent friendship with him. "One of the first things Marty said to me was, 'I've just discovered a new Powell and Pressburger masterpiece!' We were working at night on Raging Bull and he said, 'You have to come into the living room and look at this right now.' He had a videocassette of I Know Where I'm Going. For him to have taken an hour and a half out of our editing time is typical of the way he proselytises. Anyone he meets, or the actors he works with, he immediately starts bombarding with Powell and Pressburger movies."



    Powell's influence is all over Scorsese's work. His trademark use of the colour red is a direct homage to Powell, for example - though Powell told him he overused the colour in Mean Streets. And Powell was practically a consultant on Raging Bull, giving Scorsese script advice and even guiding him towards releasing the film in black and white. (Again, Powell observed that Robert de Niro's boxing gloves were too red.) Meanwhile, Powell's Tales of Hoffman informed the movements of Raging Bull's fight scenes. "Marty was always asking Michael, 'How did you do that shot?' or 'Where did you get that idea?'" Schoonmaker says. "They shared a tremendous passion for the history of film - but he didn't always go along with Marty's taste in modern film-makers. For example, Michael didn't quite get Sam Fuller. Marty showed him Forty Guns, or started to show it to him, and Michael walked out halfway through. Marty was heartbroken."



    The restoration of The Red Shoes came about when Schoonmaker tried to buy Scorsese a print of The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp for his 60th birthday. She was alarmed to discover the printing negative was worn out, and that there wasn't enough money to restore it. Much of the Powell and Pressburger legacy was, and still is, in a similar condition. So she and Scorsese set about raising the cash to fund the restoration. "It's been over two years now of checking test prints and determining how the picture should be restored," says Scorsese. "In restoration circles, very often three-strip Technicolor film can only reach a certain technical level. The colours start to become yellow and you get fringing - where the strips don't quite line up. But the techniques we used here are top of the line. So it looks better than new. It's exactly like what the film-makers wanted at the time, but they couldn't achieve it back then."



    Other Powell/Pressburger movies are now in line for restoration, but Scorsese and Schoonmaker's rehabilitation mission does not stop there. For some years, between movie projects (they are currently completing Scorsese's latest, Shutter Island, with Leonardo DiCaprio), they have been working on a documentary about British cinema, in the vein of Scorsese's 1999 personal appreciation of Italian cinema, My Voyage in Italy. Powell and Pressburger will be in there of course; but also Hitchcock, Korda, Anthony Asquith and possibly others we've forgotten about ourselves. British cinema is sorely misunderstood, Scorsese feels, and it needs this documentary even more than Italian cinema did.



    Perhaps that's something for next year's Cannes? "Well, I'm still working on my speech [for Friday]," says Scorsese. "I never know what to say. I'm trying to hone it down to my key emotional connection to the film. My favourite scene is the one near the beginning at the cocktail party. Where Lermontov [Anton Walbrook] asks Vicky [Moira Shearer], 'Why do you want to dance?' and she replies, 'Why do you want to live?' Despite all the other beautiful sequences in the film, that's the one that stays in my mind."



    � The restored version of The Red Shoes premieres at the Cannes film festival tomorrow, and then at the Edinburgh film festival on 18 June. A Special Edition DVD and Blu-ray is released on 29 June.

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    Senior Member Country: Scotland julian_craster's Avatar
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    Martin Scorsese: 'The movie that plays in my heart'



    The director Martin Scorsese explains why Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's British classic 'The Red Shoes' is so special, and reveals that it inspired other film-makers including Francis Ford Coppola and Steven Spielberg



    Friday, 15 May 2009



    Martin Scorsese: 'The movie that plays in my heart' - Features, Films - The Independent







    Taking a break from post-production on their new film "Shutter Island", Martin Scorsese and his editor Thelma Schoonmaker will be in Cannes today for a screening of the restored version of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's "The Red Shoes".





    I saw The Red Shoes (1948) aged nine or 10. My father took me. Seeing it that first time was an overwhelming experience for me. My father, who worked in the garment district in New York, certainly wasn't an educated man but he did like films. For some reason, he took me to see The Red Shoes. I certainly don't think he was a ballet enthusiast. I believe that the film had picked up an audience here in America. Everyone was talking about it and so he wanted to see it.



    My father liked the film very much too. We always used to talk about it. He liked it for its sense of mystery in terms of the character of Lermontov (the driven ballet impresario played by Anton Walbrook) and the kind of mystical endeavour of art that it showed. I don't say he said that. But there was something inevitable about what these people were doing. On his level, he would talk about the wonderful film it was and that it was a good show. It was obviously very different from many of the musicals that were coming out of America at the time in that the nature of the story had a very dark element to it. This was something unique, especially served up in such a beautifully made and crafted way. I don't think my father understood the impact the film had on me at the time until years later, when he met Michael Powell. We all became sort of a family, my mother and father and Powell.



    Over the years, I have been told that I am like Lermontov. I maybe tend to agree. I really don't know. There is something about the Lermontov character and the world that he controls that is, I guess, the pool that I go back to for sustenance. It has to do with the mystery of art � the mystery of the passion to create and the darker side which can can take over. I think that will always be fascinating to me. It could very well have been an inspiration for the types of characters I tend to gravitate toward in the types of pictures I make.



    The first word that comes to mind about Moira Shearer in The Red Shoes is "radiant," particularly in the way she was lit in the film and the angles used in her close-ups. The combination of actor/dancer seemed so natural for her. The nature of her physical build said so much about the character, even just a glance from her or a close-up.



    There is something about the use of colour and the impact of the movement in the frame. It is to do with the high drama, even melodrama, within the lives of the characters and how seriously they took what they were doing. It was also their actual journey in creating something and the difficulty they faced. You could really feel the work that was being done by these dancers and by Lermontov and by the Marius Goring character (the young composer.) It made it very visceral.



    The colour, the way the film was photographed by the great Jack Cardiff, stayed in my mind for years. The film would be shown every Christmas on American television in black and white, but it didn't matter � we watched it. Even though it was in black and white on TV, we saw it in colour. We knew the colour. We still felt the passion � I used to call it brush-strokes � in the way Michael Powell used the camera in that film. Also, the ballet sequence itself was like an encyclopedia of the history of cinema. They used every possible means of expression, going back to the earliest of silent cinema.



    I met Michael Powell through (the publicist) Michael Kaplan, who had worked with Stanley Kubrick and was beginning to work with Robert Altman. I and others had been asking about Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger pretty much throughout the late 1960s. We really couldn't find anything definitive written about them in any of the histories of British cinema.



    Among my colleagues � Coppola, of course, Spielberg and Brian De Palma and pretty much everybody who was beginning to make films in the early 1970s � whenever we spoke about a film and we couldn't remember the title, it was invariably something we had seen on television in black and white, written, produced and directed by Powell and Pressburger. We were all wondering who they were, where they were and whether they were still alive. If they were alive, we wanted to know what they were doing now. If we could meet them, we could ask them how they did that work together. That "written, produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger" is one of the most unique title credits in movie history, both sharing the same credit card.



    Kaplan said: "Oh, I know Michael � he is living in a trailer. If you'd like to meet him, I can arrange that." I was in London for a couple of days and we met at this restaurant. He (Powell) sat across from me and we shared a glass of wine each. I was rather effusive about him and his work. I couldn't believe we had found him! We brought him up to date about the appreciation of his and Emeric's work among the younger film-makers. My friends and colleagues were still trying to find good colour copies of the work or at least extant copies of A Canterbury Tale (1944). I do talk rather quickly. I was excited. He seemed rather modest and somewhat taken aback. Quite honestly, I guess I spoke so much, I don't remember what he told me.



    Powell had gone from making "quota quickies" (low budget British films) in the 1930s on to his collaboration with Pressburger and then on to a film like Peeping Tom (1960). When I was at Washington Square College, which was part of New York University at the time, there was a very, very small film department. Peeping Tom became a legendary film. Even if people had missed it, they talked about it. It really fed directly into a wonderful film made by Jim McBride at the time, who was also a student, called David Holzman's Diary (1967). Peeping Tom was one of the key influences on that Powell was really influencing an entire generation.



    I believe he was living in this small trailer. It looked like an Airstream. He was trying to work. Now, looking back, I know he was in dire circumstances with finances and pretty much everything else.



    I was more of a close friend of Michael Powell than of Emeric Pressburger. Michael came to New York. He came to California when I was living there. We were around each other a great deal of the time. I only met Emeric a few times. It's hard for me to comment on their collaboration. I don't think anybody could have a fair sense of how something like that evolved. The results are so extraordinary. We look at that remarkable title card that says "Written, Produced and Directed By" and we realise that one couldn't do without the other. Pressburger brought a certain European sensibility to the work. That fascinates me because it's not only British. Michael grew up in the south of France. Emeric Pressburger's home country was Hungary. From what I read and know, they worked very closely and well together and the results were quite extraordinary � masterpiece after masterpiece.



    I keep coming back to The Red Shoes. If I come back from shooting a film at 3am from a night-shoot or at dawn and it's on, I find it is difficult to got to sleep. It is a film that I continually and obsessively am drawn to. It was very hard to see good colour copies of the film. I sought out whatever theatre they were playing in. The big prize was to get a good 16mm colour print. That was like a major coup to get that � or, at least to see it if not to own one. That become a kind of obsessive search.



    The funny thing about it is the nature of possessing a print of the film. It's not about the celluloid. It's not about the print. It's about the nature of the film itself and how the film changes in my mind when I see it or it changes in my heart when I see it. I always say that film doesn't really exist. When you see it, it's just reels of celluloid. One has to project the film. You need electricity. Then the film plays out in your mind and your heart. It continually does that for me. Over the years, looking at The Red Shoes, I have begun to see the analogy with the world I am in. It keeps giving me the energy to keep moving on.



    Volume two of Michael's autobiography (Million-Dollar Movie) is quite unique. He talks not just about his period of success but also about when things went bad. After The Tales Of Hoffmann (1951), things became more difficult. Peeping Tom was the finish. In any event, from reading the autobiography and knowing Michael from 1975 until 1990 (when he died), I think he and Pressburger were as skilled as politicians as they could have been in that world. Working for J Arthur Rank, they were able to create a string of masterpieces. That changed. It's the nature of the way the world has changed.



    Martin Scorsese talked to Geoffrey Macnab



    SCREENING THE RESTORED THE RED SHOES



    Taking a break from post-production on their new film "Shutter Island", Martin Scorsese and his editor Thelma Schoonmaker will be in Cannes today for a screening of the restored version of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's "The Red Shoes".



    "Marty and I have always, over the years, tried to promote the work," says Schoonmaker of her and Scorsese's attempts to bring the works of Powell and Pressburger to wider attention. She was introduced to Powell by Scorsese and ended up marrying him in 1984. Powell died in 1990.



    The negatives of "The Red Shoes" that had been made by the British Film Institute were fast becoming worn out. "It became clear that we had to think about a major new restoration," Schoonmaker recalls. The restoration was made from the original three-strip Technicolor materials. These were in "bad shape," scratched, dirty and suffering from serious mould damage. Now, they have undergone an extraordinary transformation. Scorsese and Schoonmaker both say they were "knocked out" by how vivid the colours appear.



    "The Red Shoes" is one of the most innovative films in British cinema. In Lermontov, it features a character as driven and uncompromising as Scorsese himself. Schoonmaker says of Scorsese: "The sense of courage, daring and of being willing to die for your art appeals to him immensely."



    Tonight, alongside Scorsese and Schoonmaker will be relatives of many of the other key collaborators on "The Red Shoes". Pressburger's grandson Andrew Macdonald (producer of "Trainspotting"); the daughter and grand-daughter of the film's star, ballet dancer Moira Shearer; and the widows of Marius Goring and cinematographer Jack Cardiff, are all due to attend.

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    It's really difficult to know just who Scorsese was influenced by, since almost everyone has been cited over time as a huge inspiration.



    From the famous to the obscure, Scorsese has claimed to have influenced by them all - personally speaking I don't believe him.

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    Senior Member Country: Scotland julian_craster's Avatar
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    It can be a bit ridiculous when every time a film director uses red in a shot and says



    'Ah... I got that from Michael Powell ! "



    One has to see the funny side sometimes....

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    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    It can be a bit ridiculous when every time a film director uses red in a shot and says

    'Ah... I got that from Michael Powell ! "

    One has to see the funny side sometimes....
    Indeed. But for Martin Scorsese, Michael Powell was a real and direct influence. As Thelma Schoonmaker said when she gave a lecture at Canterbury in 1999 about how Scorsese had been influenced by P&P (or just P) films. Before she came over to see us she asked Scorsese for the best examples and he said that their influence was all over most of his films. Thelma made the point that Scorsese never COPIED any P&P scene but that a LOT of them had major influences on him. Marty would watch the P&P films, inwardly digest and consider the scenes and then produce his own scenes in his own way - but he gladly acknowledges the influence that P&P in general and certain P&P scenes in particular had on him & his films.



    And it's not just the oft cited use of the colour red. There are plenty of other examples on the Famous Fans list on the PaPAS site



    Steve

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    Senior Member HUGHJAMPTON's Avatar
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    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TJKf70Tpfxc

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZT76ZRBEW2k

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpHAQOUERLQ



    Scorsese cites two of MP's films here. Tales of Hoffmann and The Red Shoes. Unfortunately parts 2 and 3 are out of sync, but please bear with it.

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    Meanwhile, Francis Ford Coppola is a bit more blatant. Here's the trailer for his latest.....we have the same snatch of Mendelsohn as in AMOLAD, and some images of a ballet performance (at about 1.50 in) straight from The Red Shoes and/or Hoffmann.


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJ_XTIsMKig

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    Senior Member HUGHJAMPTON's Avatar
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    Meanwhile, Francis Ford Coppola is a bit more blatant. Here's the trailer for his latest.....we have the same snatch of Mendelsohn as in AMOLAD, and some images of a ballet performance (at about 1.50 in) straight from The Red Shoes and/or Hoffmann.



    YouTube - Tetro: Official Trailer


    .....and the use of B&W and colour, AMOLAD. Isn't, imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

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    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Meanwhile, Francis Ford Coppola is a bit more blatant. Here's the trailer for his latest.....we have the same snatch of Mendelsohn as in AMOLAD, and some images of a ballet performance (at about 1.50 in) straight from The Red Shoes and/or Hoffmann.



    YouTube - Tetro: Official Trailer
    Does Hein Heckroth get a credit for that set at 1:53?



    I'm not sure if an extract from Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream counts as an AMOLAD reference. I've already added TRS & ToH reference links for it on the IMDb



    Steve

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    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    That article is not only about Powell's influence on Scorsese. It is also about Scorcese's commitment to preserving, celebrating and advancing the legacy of Powell and Pressburger. I have benefited directly from this through the recent release of the DVD of A Matter of Life and Death.



    I am aware that it takes many people to bring about the release of a DVD. I do not know who else was involved outside of Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker. I'm sure Steve Crook knows the details.



    But I do know enough to be grateful to both of them.

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    Senior Member HUGHJAMPTON's Avatar
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    You're more than welcome





    BFI | Features | Powell & Pressburger | Michael Powell - the NFT interviews



    Any more background information/insight on these, Steve, would be helpful. No doubt you were present for at least the 1985 interview?

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    Plenty of advance warning for this chaps!



    "Matter of Life and Death" is Lenny Henry's 'My Favourite Film' on BBC Radio 2 next Friday 24 July @ 7 p.m.



    Interview with Thelma too!

  13. #13
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Plenty of advance warning for this chaps!



    "Matter of Life and Death" is Lenny Henry's 'My Favourite Film' on BBC Radio 2 next Friday 24 July @ 7 p.m.



    Interview with Thelma too!
    And Ian Christie



    Steve

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    Senior Member Country: UK Freddy's Avatar
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    Did you ever identify this Steve? (I came across this while looking for Michael Standing)







    Freddy

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    I don't know why, but, this surprised me?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IraW_utPaRw

  17. #17
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Did you ever identify this Steve? (I came across this while looking for Michael Standing)







    Freddy
    No, it's not from any of the surviving films. I don't recognise those characters at all. It might be from one of the lost ones although I know the stories of those even though I haven't seen them - and this doesn't fit in with the stories of any of his films.



    Maybe he was just visiting the set of someone else's film?



    Steve

  18. #18
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    I don't know why, but, this surprised me?



    YouTube - George A. Romero on Tales of Hoffmann
    One of many on the list of Famous Fans who have reported and shown their knowledge of and admiration of P&P films. Many of the people in the list have used the inspiration from the P&P films in their own work.



    Some are well known and obvious like Scorsese, Coppola etc.

    Other are less so, like Jarvis Cocker & Courtney Love, Alan Bennett & Manolo Blahnik, Stephen Fry & Lenny Henry



    The most surprising thing about George A. Romero saying how he was inspired by P&P films is that it was The Tales of Hoffmann that inspired him the most. All that opera and high art, but it's also got some very basic sets and "special effects", often done as a simple jump-cut. Simple, but very effective. They showed George what was possible and made him realise that even he could do it - he didn't need all the fancy techniques as used in mainstream films



    Steve

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    Senior Member HUGHJAMPTON's Avatar
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    One of many on the list of Famous Fans who have reported and shown their knowledge of and admiration of P&P films. Many of the people in the list have used the inspiration from the P&P films in their own work.



    Some are well known and obvious like Scorsese, Coppola etc.

    Other are less so, like Jarvis Cocker & Courtney Love, Alan Bennett & Manolo Blahnik, Stephen Fry & Lenny Henry



    The most surprising thing about George A. Romero saying how he was inspired by P&P films is that it was The Tales of Hoffmann that inspired him the most. All that opera and high art, but it's also got some very basic sets and "special effects", often done as a simple jump-cut. Simple, but very effective. They showed George what was possible and made him realise that even he could do it - he didn't need all the fancy techniques as used in mainstream films



    Steve
    Well, I'm glad that GAR, mentioned in his introduction at The Toronto International Film Festival, the surprise that some people may have in his choice.



    That list of fans is pretty impressive. Just the fact that they received a fan letter from Cecil B DeMille, is some recommendation.



    Bob Holness, too, would always ask for a P&P



    Just a note, you may have to update on Tony Booth, re the PM reference.



    The list was fascinating.



    Thanks, Steve.

  20. #20
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Just a note, you may have to update on Tony Booth, re the PM reference.
    Thanks, updated



    There's another interesting letter on the site, about I Know Where I'm Going!



    Steve

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