April 8—15, 2024


The Colour Whisperers. A Powell & Pressburger retrospective at Timeless Film Festival Warsaw

There exists no other duo in cinematic history quite like Englishman Michael Powell and Hungarian Jew Emeric Pressburger. Despite their differing temperaments, they created a series of timeless masterpieces in 1940s Britain under the banner of The Archers, where they jointly served as writers, producers, and directors.

While their works belong firmly within the canon of world cinema, they remain relatively unknown in Poland, with their films often difficult to access. The forthcoming retrospective at Timeless Film Festival Warsaw seeks to shine a light on these brilliant “colour whisperers,” whose visionary aesthetics continue to inspire successive generations of filmmakers.

The retrospective will present 10 films without which the history of cinema would be incomplete, or at least: less compelling. Each of them invites you on a different journey and stands as a separate treasure – rescued from obscurity, restored, and returned to their former glory. In the humble conditions of wartime and post-war Britain, The Archers succeeded in fulfilling the dream of cinema as a machine of total artistry, where fantasies are rendered into tangible reality. It’s high time that the imagery from their works began to permeate our dreams as well

– writes Sebastian Smolinski, curator of the retrospective.

The collaboration of Powell & Pressburger yielded epic productions, predominantly filmed in studios, where they worked closely with exceptional set designers, cinematographers, and composers. Their finest works represent an unprecedented fusion of artistic disciplines within European cinema – blending elements of art, architecture, ballet, opera, and music. Martin Scorsese, a longtime admirer of their work, said that these were almost experimental film-makers working inside a totally commercial system.

Tilda Switon, a staunch enthusiast of The Archers, wrote in a recent letter to the late Powell & Pressburger:

Consistently reffered to as perhaps the most quintessentially English of filmmaking families, we nonetheless recognise as unmistakably essential to your universe a peerless production design born out of the luxurious glamour of continental European expressionism, the smoke and mirrors of the theare, the opera and the mark of the hand painted, hand wrought, hand made.

Powell & Pressburger have garnered admiration from a host of prominent filmmakers, including Greta Gerwig, Wes Anderson, Ari Aster, Francis Ford Coppola, George A. Romero, Dario Argento, Derek Jarman, and Bong Joon-ho.

Timeless Film Festival Warsaw will showcase the following films within the retrospective:

  • The Edge of the World (Great Britain, 1937), dir. Michael Powell
  • The Thief of Bagdad (Great Britain, 1940), dir. Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger, Tim Whelan
  • The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Great Britain, 1943)
  • A Canterbury Tale (Great Britain, 1944)
  • I Know Where I’m Going! (Great Britain, 1945)
  • A Matter of Life and Death (Great Britain, 1946)
  • Black Narcissus (Great Britain, 1947)
  • The Red Shoes (Great Britain, 1948)
  • The Tales of Hoffman (Great Britain, 1951)
  • Peeping Tom (Great Britain, 1960), dir. Michael Powell

All films have undergone digital restoration and will be screened from DCP copies.

Additionally, Timeless viewers will have the opportunity to watch a documentary dedicated to the Archers’ cinematographer and Technicolor master Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (Great Britain, 2010).

A special event accompanying the retrospective will be an exhibition featuring portrait photographs by Fred Daniels, the esteemed photographer known for his work with Powell & Pressburger and one of the pioneers of still photography. The exhibition’s curators, Nigel Arthur (BFI) and Eva Reeves, will present dozens of works shot on The Archers’ sets, introducing the aesthetics and atmosphere of mid-century cinema.

The Powell & Pressburger retrospective is organized in collaboration with the British Council.

Peła Sala is the media partner of the review.

The Warsaw festival is not just about film screenings but also includes events featuring musicians who will perform their own compositions, often to films that they themselves have selected. These unique cinema concerts are the result of collaborations with artists such as Wim Mertens, Paweł Mykietyn, Stefan Wesołowski, Eiko Ishibashi, Ellen Arkbro, Dobrawa Czocher, Jozef Van Wissem, or the bands Małe Instrumenty and XYLOS. These artists will reinterpret legendary works like The Passion of Joan of Arc, The Fall of the House of Usher, and Buster Keaton’s short films. The Grand Theater – National Opera will host screenings of the film Amadeus with a live Orchestra and Chorus.

February 28, 2024 – Sale of passes and accreditation begins 
March 6, 2024 – Announcement of the complete festival program
March 13, 2024 – Start of online sales of tickets for screenings

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