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BFI announce UK-wide Powell and Pressburger Cinema Unbound programme

CINEMA UNBOUND: THE CREATIVE WORLDS OF POWELL AND PRESSBURGER, a major BFI UK-wide film celebration of one of the greatest and most enduring filmmaking partnerships in the history of cinema: Michael Powell (1905-1990) and Emeric Pressburger (1902-1988), best known for their iconic films including THE RED SHOES (1948), A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (1946) and BLACK NARCISSUS (1947), comes to big screens nationwide this autumn. CINEMA UNBOUND: THE CREATIVE WORLDS OF POWELL AND PRESSBURGER today announces a UK-wide programme, funded by National Lottery, with over 56 special events and screenings, in the first round, supported in partnership by BFI Film Audience Network (BFI FAN).

From Martin Scorsese to Matthew Bourne, Kate Bush to Margaret Atwood, Tilda Swinton and Greta Gerwig, Powell and Pressburger have influenced creatives for decades, their bold, subversive and iconoclastic cinema continuing to resonate across the worlds of art, design, theatre, dance and music. This is the largest and most wide-ranging exploration ever undertaken about the work of the legendary writer-producer-director team. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s incredibly fruitful artistic collaboration at their production company, The Archers, spanned 24 films together made between 1939 and 1972.

The UK-wide celebration kicks off this autumn on the big screen with the BFI Distribution re-release of I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING! (1945), back in UK-wide cinemas from 20 October. I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING! was recently restored by the BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation in association with ITV and Park Circus, with funding for the restoration provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation with additional support provided by Matt Spick. BFI Distribution is also re-releasing the iconic dance film THE RED SHOES (1948), in honour of its 75th anniversary from 8 DecemberTHE RED SHOES was previously restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive in association with the BFI, The Film Foundation, ITV Global Entertainment Ltd., and Janus Films. Restoration funding for the film was provided by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, The Film Foundation, and the Louis B. Mayer Foundation. Both restorations have been licensed from Park Circus/ITV. A new restoration of PEEPING TOM (1960) restored by the BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation in association with Studiocanal will be released in UK cinemas by Studiocanal on 27 October. 

Studiocanal will also be unveiling a new 4K restoration of THE SMALL BACK ROOM (1949) as part of CINEMA UNBOUND. Restored by the BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation in association with Studiocanal, THE SMALL BACK ROOM will be available via Studiocanal as well as a first ever DCP print for OH…ROSALINDA!! (1955). BFI FAN partners nationwide will also be able to book classic Powell and Pressburger’s titles, A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (1946), BLACK NARCISSUS (1947), and double bills of THE EDGE OF THE WORLD (1937) + RETURN TO THE EDGE OF THE WORLD (1978) as well as the recent restoration of Michael Powell’s BLUEBEARD’S CASTLE (1964) + THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE (1955). BLUEBEARD’S CASTLE (1964) has been restored by the BFI National Archive and The Film Foundation in association with The Ashbrittle Film Foundation, with funding provided by the BFI National Archive, The Louis B. Mayer Foundation and The Film Foundation. The sublime new restoration of BLUEBEARD’S CASTLE (1964) will also be released by the BFI in a Dual format edition (DVD & Blu-ray) in November.

Following the huge success of the inaugural BFI Film on Film Festival in June, the season will offer UK-wide audiences a chance to experience the magic of seeing films projected on film, with 35mm print screenings of BLACK NARCISSUS (1947), THE RED SHOES (1948), THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP (1943) and THE TALES OF HOFFMANN (1951), with new prints made with funding from the National Lottery and the additional support of donors to the BFI’s Keep Film on Film campaign.

Programme highlights up and down the UK and Northern Ireland include aroma-focused immersive screenings of BLACK NARCISSUS (1947) in Chester, Brighton and Glasgow, a series of screenings in Orkney, Mull, the Isle of Tiree and Oban, celebrating Powell and Pressburger’s Island films including I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING! (1945) and THE EDGE OF THE WORLD (1937). Special screenings planned at Much Wenlock, Shropshire, the location for GONE TO EARTH (1949) and Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens, West Sussex one of the key filming locations for BLACK NARCISSUS (1947). Other event highlights include an immersive screening of THE RED SHOES (1948) at Exeter Cathedral and A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (1946) at Nympsfield Airfield Aerodrome, Gloucestershire. Plus, Powell and Pressburger film seasons at cinemas across the country from Cardiff, Derry, Belfast, Glasgow, Nottingham and Sheffield, to Dundee, Folkestone, Cambridge and Manchester.

Powell and Pressburger’s masterpieces were so numerous that in 2022 six of their films appeared in the Sight and Sound Greatest Films of All Time Poll (a feat only matched by Hitchcock). True cinematic visionaries, Powell and Pressburger worked with an exceptionally talented creative team of long-term collaborators as The Archers. This included Alfred Junge (production designer), Hein Heckroth (production designer and costume designer), Jack Cardiff (cinematographer), Ivor Beddoes (sketch artist), Arthur Lawson (art director) and Brian Easdale (composer) as well as actors including Roger Livesey, Anton Walbrook, Moira Shearer, Deborah Kerr, Kathleen Byron and Sabu. Together they created some of the richest and most memorable films in the story of cinema, the impact of which continues to be felt today.

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