Michael Powell made films in the south of France. Before that one. His first job in the film industry was working at the Victorine studios of Rex Ingram, just outside Nice, in the mid-1920s. He was 19 and he took on pretty much any job he could on set, trying to learn the business from the ground up. It worked, didn’t it? He even appeared in front of the camera a few times, often playing a sappy creation called Cicero Simp in the Riviera Revels comic shorts.
Powell, who forever loved silent cinema – and the riviera – was hugely influenced by Rex Ingram, his meticulous mise en scène and his flair for the fantastical. He counted him as a close friend for life. To mark this relationship, as part of the epic Powell and Pressburger season that kicks off this week, the BFI is showing Ingram’s The Magician (1926) on Sunday 29 October. Powell worked in an assistant director role for this film, and even appears briefly on screen, flexing his comedy muscles again.
The real stars of this fantasy horror film are Paul Wegener and Alice Terry (Ingram’s wife), who play a mad scientist and a sculptor respectively. He mesmerises her for nefarious ends, in this macabre, beautiful movie. Yet another film to add to your Halloween schedule.
The film screens on 35mm with an introduction by Bryony Dixon, and live musical accompaniment by Stephen Horne. And as a bonus, two of those Riviera Revels shorts, so you can see Powell in action as Cicero Simp, “naturalist and nuisance”. It promises to be an excellent afternoon.