powellBritish director Michael Powell, best known for his collaborations with screenwriter EmericPressburger, was born 100 years ago this year. Justly celebrated abroad (and by American film dorks like Martin Scorsese, who adores him), he's a sadly overlooked figure in the US.

The films of Powell and Pressburger are almost uniformly awesome, in the old sense of the word. Visually stunning, often slightly strange, they're much deeper and odder than what we're used to today. A Matter of Life and Death (aka Stairway To Heaven) is still without a US DVD release but is probably their most famous film. It's the tale, basically, of a heroic pilot-ghost (David Niven) who isn't entirely sure that he's dead. Everything about it is supremely dignified, shot in impossibly glorious purples and pinks. When the pilot ascends into the heavens via an endless staircase, it's like watching Frankie Valli Avalon in Grease, except you're somehow compelled to take it seriously.

categories Cinematical