Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Edge of the World

Michael Powell, 1937, bw (8.0*)
Filmed on one of Scotland's Shetland Islands, in a location so remote that the Roman Empire named one of the these islands the Latin for "edge of the world". This is a stark, beautifully shot black and white film whose style mirrors the harsh, simple, ascetic lifestyle of the people who inhabit the westernmost islands of the British Isles, beyond whose open sea lies "only America". Life is becoming increasingly harsh and unliveable for the fisherman of the island, due to overfishing from the bigger commercial fleets, and some nearby islands have had to be evacuated. The only current means of livelihood are wool and peat and there is little future for the island's youth, who are deserting for the towns and cities of the big islands.

Powell is perhaps less polished without his famous screenwriting partner Emeric Pressburger, (see The Red Shoes, A Matter of Life and Death, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp) but this remains a very interesting early Powell effort. In fact, one might say the stark island landscapes only broken by people foreshadowed Antonioni's L'avventura over 20 years later. The dvd features a documentary by Powell shot when cast and crew revisited the island of Foula, location of the film's shooting, and revisited original inhabitants who were also in the film 25 years previously.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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