Raymond Durgnat on Michael Powell

In an article published in the October 1992 issue of Sight and Sound titled “Remembering Michael Powell,” Raymond Durgnat suggests that one reason for Powell and Pressburger’s surge in critical fortunes in the 1980s was generational. Durgnat speaks of meeting Powell at a film festival around the time that the aging film-maker came back into the spotlight:

He had just begun unleashing in Anglophone critics the sorts of affection that Renoir had tapped in Cahiers du cinĂ©ma. It’s as if each generation loves, in a selected grandfather, the traditions it deplores in its fathers and simultaneously revels in the discovery of new freedoms in the very things its own fathers rebelled against.

This is an interesting quote for a few reasons. First, it, perhaps unconsciously, points out the depressing patrilinearity of film culture and film criticism (P & P were extensively taken up by feminist film critics and an important influence on several feminist film-makers, so it’s not all about grandfathers and grandsons). Second, and despite this, it still somehow nails the public persona of the elderly Powell, generated through interviews, his autobiography, and through pictures like the one above, taken, I think, from his 1978 film Return to the Edge of the World. He seems the very model of the avuncular. He, in that sweater, positively avuncles.

Durgnat, Raymond. “Remembering Michael Powell.” Sight and Sound 2.6 (October 1992): 22.

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