A Love Bewitched

I’m glad this is up on YouTube, and in such pristine form. Hope whoever posted it is the rights holder, I stuck a bit on YouTube and got my account closed for my troubles.

And when are we going to get to see this (deeply flawed, intermittently brilliant) Powell movie? The film that really killed Powell’s career (you don’t wind up making a slasher movie for Anglo-Amalgamated if your career hasn’t been killed)…

I recently saw THE QUEEN’S GUARDS, Powell’s follow-up to PEEPING TOM — he had Hollywood studio backing for it, as the damage of PEEPING TOM hadn’t happened yet. But THE QUEEN’S GUARDS, as Powell ruefully admits in his autobio, is a bad film. As such, it may have done more to hurt him than PT’s critical reception — at least many of the reviewers admitted TOM was made with Powell’s usual skill (this seemed to make things worse). That can’t be said for GUARDS.

At any rate, the idea that PEEPING TOM was the sole cause of Powell’s fall should be laid to rest.

HONEYMOON is startling because the bad bits are so bad and the good bits — see above — so good. It certainly gives the impression that Powell without Pressburger needed a strong collaborator (like Leo Marks) to shape his ideas. The story meanders, never acquires depth, and ultimately fails to resolve itself at all. Even some of the dance sequences are bad: Powell film’s Antonio’s first impromptu dance in medium shot, cutting off his feet, a shocking thing to do in any dance, but especially a Spanish one. Some of the problems no doubt stemmed from a last-minute alteration: Powell felt he hadn’t got enough of Spain into the movie, so he made a quick whistle-stop tour of the locations in his car, filming out of the window. This footage was more or less dumped into the movie, with a treacly song by Wally Stott (musical arranger for The Goon Show, later transexual) laid over it — the result is that the film seems like it’s never going to get started, and when it eventually does, it’s regularly interrupted by tedious travelogue. If Powell had lived with the edit for just a few more days, I have no doubt he’d have hacked some of this filler out.

Still, as you can see from the amazing action above, while it’s not quite THE RED SHOES ballet, the El Amor Bruja number is stunning, and makes the idea of a restoration exciting indeed.


13 Responses to “A Love Bewitched”

  1. I think Peeping Tom is considered the reason why Powell became persona-non-grata because it adds to the Faustian aspect of the film. It’s about a film-maker who would kill and die for his art, essentially the themes of THE RED SHOES and THE TALES OF HOFFMANN, but treated directly in relation to film rather than the separate mediums of ballet and opera and the mix of that romanticism with the tawdriness of the milieu and the direct way it implicates cinema in that unforgettable line, “All this filming isn’t healthy” makes for great mytho-poetic flavour. Whereas a botched exotic pageant doesn’t. I’d still like to see Luna de Miel though.

    Among the films he made after Peeping Tom, Age of Consent is for me a masterpiece, a great late film. Powell and Mason probably saw it as a dress rehearsal for their never made TEMPEST(Helen Mirren who debuts in the film appears presently as Prospera in Julie Taymor’s film) but its fantastic in its own right. I also hear though I haven’t seen it, that an opera movie he made for German TV is great as well.

  2. Wow. That is really something – the Witches’ Sabbath particularly. Very Goyaesque.

  3. Powell’s film of Bluebeard’s Castle is terrific, and may be emerging from copyright limbo… I had a clip on YouTube, but that got nixed at the same time as Honeymoon. With the result that I hate the copyright holder, who could simply have ASKED me to take it down. The fact that he hasn’t released his own versions of the films annoys me even more.

  4. Dan Callahan Says:

    This dance sequence is just spectacular. Sorry to hear that the rest of the film isn’t on this level, but it would still be great to see it. And “Bluebeard.”

  5. There was a screening of Bluebeard’s Castle here in L.A. last year. Thelma was there to introduce it. It’s only and hour and really quite special. Not flashy at all, and in its own odd way comparable to Straub-Huillet in its restraint.

    The Queen’s Guard was released right after Peeping Tom, and thus was caught in the tsunami of bile that masterpiece inspired. I’d call it “routine” rather than bad. The chips were down at that point and Mr. Powell absconded to Australia where he made They’re a Weird Mob (A lovely title. I have yet to see it.) and discovered Helen Mirren — for which we are all endlesly thankful.

    Clearly Ken Russell caught Helen’s disarming “full-figured” nudity in Powell’s film as he grabbed her up for Savage Messiah and had her do “Nude Descending a Staricase” — literally.

    P&P’s grand finale was a children’s television film, The Boy Who Turned Yellow, that occasionally pops up on cable. It’s truly teriffic.

  6. The Straubs(who I really dug deep into this year) filmed two Schoenberg operas, the styles couldn’t be more opposite but moments in MOSES UND ARON are as vivid and fevered as THE TALES OF HOFFMANN or even AMOLAD.

    Pressburger also wrote the screenplay of WEIRD MOB under the name “Richard Imre”. Was Pressburger involved with THE TEMPEST? Maybe that would have brought out the old banner for one last time!

    Powell’s last credited work on TV is RETURN TO THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, his revisit to the Island which inspired his first masterpiece(which was also a solo effort). There’s a terrific moment there where Powell addresses the camera while removing a pullover. He states, “I have a confession to make. I am a poet. A poet is always without honour in his own country.”

  7. david wingrove Says:

    While I agree that HONEYMOON is no masterpiece, it’s still a hugely entertaining romp. It’s got Antonio and Ludmila trying to ‘out-camp’ each other. (He wins). Some gorgeous (if gratuitous) Spanish locations. And, yes, the truly sensational dance numbers. Not just EL AMOR BRUJO but also THE LOVERS OF TERUEL, which Ludmila adapted into a full-scale dance film of her own, directed by Raymond Rouleau. Now that’s another film I long to see!

  8. I’ve seen it and it’s TRULY weird. Kind of P&P on Acid.

  9. I’ll keep an eye out for that one!

    Pressburger also wrote The Boy Who Turned Yellow, made not for TV but for the Children’s Film Foundation, a uniquely British semi-charitable outfit that mainly made awful rubbish. The film was their biggest hit, but Powell as usual quarreled with everyone there and couldn’t make another film for them.

  10. The El Amor Bruja sequence is striking for its use of shadows, space (especially when they’re up on that mountain cliff) and a now-you-see-him-now-you-don’t Massine.

  11. I don’t suppose anyone is in the right neighbourhood for it, but there is a retrospective of P&P’s movies happening at the moment in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. More info here: http://www.thearchersamostra.com.br/

  12. Massine, at times looks like a piece of animation superimposed on the film; even besides the parts with him disappearing and re-appearing.

  13. Well, Powell did say Disney was the only great genius of cinema.

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