Martin Scorsese Boards Personal Feature Doc on British Filmmaking Duo Powell and Pressburger

·3-min read

Talk about legends colliding.

Martin Scorsese is set to narrate and executive produce a feature documentary about the hugely influential British filmmaking duo of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

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Directed by two-time BAFTA and Emmy-winning helmer David Hinton, the doc is billed as “Scorsese’s personal and moving look at two of British cinema’s greatest filmmakers.” London-based sales agent Altitude is handling international sales and will release the film in the U.K. and Ireland.

Powell and Pressburger — who together ran production company The Archers — worked together over the course of 18 years and are highly regarded for their innovative use of editing, special effects and color, which at the time was very forward-looking. They made some of the great classics of the British golden age, including “The Red Shoes” (1948), “Black Narcissus” (1947), “A Matter of Life and Death” (1946) and “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp” (1943). Pressburger died at the age of 85 in 1988, and Powell died at 84 shortly after, in 1990.

Scorsese describes the pair’s movies as “grand, poetic, wise, adventurous, headstrong, enraptured by beauty, deeply romantic, and completely uncompromising.”

The director will take the audience on a personal journey as he explains how from a young age he was captivated by Powell and Pressburger’s films, how they helped shape his own filmmaking and how a later friendship with Powell left an indelible mark on his life.

The doc features rare archival material from the personal collections of Powell, Pressburger and Scorsese. The story will also make use of diaries, audio recordings, home movies, personal snapshots and the filmmakers’ movies.

The film, which is still untitled, is produced by Nick Varley for Ten Thousand 86 and Matt Wells for Ice Cream Films. Scorsese will executive produce.

The doc is financed by BBC Film, and the National Lottery and Scottish Government through Screen Scotland. Executive producers for the BBC are outgoing executive Rose Garnett, who is joining A24, and Mark Bell. Mark Thomas will executive produce for Screen Scotland, while Will Clarke will executive produce for Altitude.

Scorsese said of the project: “I still find it extraordinary that I knew Michael Powell personally for 16 years — and, 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. I’ve seen the films that he made with Emeric over and over again but the experience of excitement and mystery that I get from them doesn’t just remain, it deepens. I don’t know how it happens but for me, their body of work is a wondrous presence, a constant source of energy, and a reminder of what life and art are all about”

Hinton added: “There’s no British films that I admire more than those of Powell and Pressburger, and working with Michael Powell in the 1980s was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my professional life. On top of that, there’s no living film-maker that I admire more than Martin Scorsese, and no one speaks about Powell and Pressburger with more passion, conviction and insight. When you put that together with all the magical archive material that we’ve found, you can see why this is a dream project for me.”

(Pictured, L-R: Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell, Martin Scorsese)

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