By JAKE COYLE, AP Screenwriter
NEW YORK (AP) – While Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker were locked in an apartment cutting “Raging Bull,” an intense process that would have consumed the thoughts of most filmmakers, Scorsese told his editor to take a break. He had a movie he needed to show him.
“He said, ‘You have to see this,'” Schoonmaker recalls.
Scorsese was already an avid fan of the films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, the British film duo known as the Archers. He considered Technicolor films such as “The Red Shoes”, “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp” and “A Matter of Life and Death” to be masterpieces. But he had stopped watching his black-and-white Scottish romance of 1945, “I Know Where I’m Going!” fearing it might be “a clearer picture.” Something about this title. And how many masterpieces could Powell and Pressburger have made?
However, Scorsese was persuaded to screen him with his friend Jay Cocks the night before filming “Raging Bull” began.
“I couldn’t have been more wrong,” Scorsese recalled in an email. “It was fun, exciting, really mystical and it was deeply exciting. I saw ‘I know where I’m going!’ many times since then, so many times, in fact, that I have almost lost count, and I am always excited and surprised every time, and I am in suspense until those incredible final moments. “
On Monday, Scorsese and the non-profit film restoration organization he founded, the Film Foundation, will open a new virtual theater, the Film Foundation Restoration Screening Room. Each month, for just one night, films that have been restored by the Film Foundation will be shown in free online screenings accompanied by discussions by Scorsese and other filmmakers. The screening room begins, of course, with the restoration of “I Know Where I’m Going!”
Since it was published in World War II days, “I know where I’m going!” has played a unique role in the hearts of viewers. It is not the most famous Powell and Pressburger movie, nor does it appear regularly on all-time charts. Instead, it is a film that is often shared among moviegoers, as a beloved gift or a family treasure. It’s an underground gem that anyone who has seen it never wants to tell everyone. “You have to see this” is like most conversations about “I know where I’m going!” to start.
“By the end of the war, people had suffered a lot,” says Schoonmaker, speaking recently on the phone. “And here’s this heartbreaking movie.”
Shortly after watching “I Know Where I’m Going,” Powell visited Scorsese, who encouraged Schoonmaker to come to dinner. They got it right and in 1984 they got married. Powell died in 1990; Pressburger in 1988. Since then, Schoonmaker and Scorsese have been engaged, when they are not making films, and are currently finishing the release of “Killers of the Flower Moon,” an expansive crime film for Apple about the murders of the 1920s in Oklahoma). Osage Nation) – to restore Powell and Pressburger films. Scorsese was recently signed to narrate a documentary about his films. For years, Schoonmaker has been combing Powell’s diaries in hopes of publishing them.
“I inherited it,” says Schoonmaker, Scorsese’s famous editor for a long time. “When Michael died, he left a small oven burning inside me. What keeps me going is loving and trying to get other people to love his work.”
How much can you spend loving an old movie? For Schoonmaker, the answer is almost everything. Scorsese’s passion for Archers films inspired Schoonmaker’s passion and, in turn, led to the love of his life.
“It was Marty’s passion for film history that made it all happen,” he says with a laugh.
With financial support from the British Film Institute and Mellody Hobson and George Lucas, the Film Foundation has restored more than 925 films, preserving broad stretches of film history and restoring the flow of many of today’s film studios. , which have shown less. interest in preserving the past of cinema than in keeping new “content” channels flowing.
“Right now, they are no longer film companies, but large media conglomerates. For them, old films are a small element in a wide range of properties and activities, “says Scorsese.” The people who direct them are from several generations of the same question of cinema: the word only makes sense. His interest is not in making good films, but in enriching his shareholders, so no, restoring a Howard Hawks image is not one of the top priorities on his list. idea that should be, for reasons that have nothing to do with profit and loss, is not even entertained. In this environment, the idea of art has no place. Throw a wrench into the works. “
“I Know Where I’m Going!”, However, represents the recklessness of the best plans. Powell and Pressburger did so in 1944 while waiting for the Technicolor cameras that Lawrence Olivier used to make “Henry V.” Pressburger is believed to have written it in a matter of days. It was presented to the Ministry of Information, which controlled the making of wartime films, as an anti-materialist tale. (The UK feared an eruption of consumerism after wartime rationing.)
In it, a stubborn woman, Joan Webster (Wendy Hiller) travels to the Scottish Herbrides (the film was shot on the picturesque Isle of Mull) to marry a wealthy gentleman. But stormy weather prevents him from crossing to Kiloran (Colonsay Island). While waiting for the passage, he meets a naval officer (Roger Livesey) from the area. They quickly become entangled in local life, as we love them. Joan feels more and more distracted.
But summing up the stimulating magic of “I know where I’m going!” it never does him justice. It resonates with a warm, lyrical spirit that feels balanced between past and present, legend and reality. It’s a movie that you, as helpless as Joan, can’t help but fall for.
The devotees of the film are a passionate tribe. The author of “The Big Sleep,” Raymond Chandler once wrote, “I’ve never seen an image that smelled of wind and rain that way.” Tilda Swinton, who owns a family home in Colonsay, thinks, “I know where I am. Let’s go!” it should be handed over by Scottish diplomats when they travel the world. “He’s like a confessional,” Swinton said in a video made for the Film Foundation. “You come back every few years.”
“I Know Where I’m Going” is partly about reconnecting with something, with nature and old-fashioned ways, that make it a film especially suited for starting the restoration screening room. With set schedules and solid conversations around the film, virtual theater is set up in a clearly different way from the standard playback experience.
“We are used to watching and listening in our own time. Something has been gained, but it has also been lost, “says Scorsese.
At a time when film culture may not be sure of its direction, the book “I Know Where I’m Going!” can help light the way. It is, in any case, a port of mind in a storm.
“I’ve always felt that you can’t have a present or a future in cinema without your past. The films that I’ve seen, that I’ve seen and studied again, that I’ve discovered for myself or through a friend … enrich me, inspire me, sustain me, “says Scorsese. Can you imagine someone making movies without bothering to see anything done ahead of time? But the question is, why? What’s the point? previous films and all that follow it. It’s true of all art. Isn’t it amazing? “
Follow AP movie writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP
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