A Matter Of Life And Death
Nobody tells me anything. It wasn't until yesterday that I found out about the master classes that TIFF Cinematheque has scheduled for this Tuesday and Wednesday, in which directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel will be introducing and discussing two films by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. A Matter Of Life And Death screens Tuesday at 7 pm, with I Know Where I'm Going! Wednesday at 7 pm -
This is remarkable, because McGehee and Siegel strike me as the last people you'd want to examine Powell and Pressburger. The filmmaking team - known in England as the Archers - distinguished themselves by making lush, richly emotional films during and after the Second World War. While David Lean was working on black-and-white Dickens adaptations, the Archers were delivering Technicolor triumphs like The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp, Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes. These are dazzling accomplishments; their emotional and technical virtuosity enthralled the young Martin Scorsese, who became one of their most ardent fans. (It's primarily thanks to Scorsese's efforts that the Archers' films exist in those glorious Criterion editions.)
By contrast, McGehee and Siegel's filmography breaks down into intellectual puzzles like Suture and Uncertainty or stylistic character studies like the chilly Tilda Swinton drama The Deep End and last year's Henry James update What Maisie Knew. Their one venture into more emotional territory, the Juliette Binoche drama Bee Season, is sort of a mess.
Neither A Matter Of Life And Death (also known as Stairway To Heaven) nor I Know Where I'm Going! is a particularly intellectual production; the former is a supernatural courtroom drama starring David Niven as an airman who must go before a celestial tribunal to be allowed to return to Earth and meet the American radio operator (Kim Hunter) whose voice accompanied him on his last flight. And I Know Where I'm Going! is a romantic comedy of sorts, starring Wendy Hiller as a young woman whose destiny intersects with that of a naval officer (Roger Livesy) whom she meets in Scotland's Outer Hebrides.
What will McGehee and Siegel have to say about these films? I have literally no idea. And that makes them incredibly intriguing to me; not only will we get to see two rarely-screened classics of British cinema, but the conversation that follows is an entirely unknown quantity. Doesn't that sound like a couple of great evenings out?