IF THE REDISCOVERY of director Michael Powell's "first" featurehis 1937 drama about the last inhabitants to pull up stakes forever from their remote Scottish islandisn't enough, the extras on this disc (released Dec. 9) put it high on the must list for Powell lovers, or simply lovers of astonishing filmmaking. Thelma Schoonmaker, Martin Scorsese's veteran editor and Powell's widow, offers clear, pleasantly down-to-earth descriptions of Powell's filmmaking tricks and techniques, plus stories he told her about this film, his lost favorite. Even she is in awe of the dangers of some of his camera angles and in-camera tricks, "which he probably learned working in silents." Magical half-exposures show islanders of the past walking by newcomers exploring their deserted homeland.
Daniel Day-Lewis reads Powell's own reports on the filmmaking, some of it in the teeth of a ferocious 10-day gale that almost forced evacuation, while Powell biographer Ian Christie tackles the historical detail with storytelling verve. There is also a 1978 color short, Return to the Edge of the World, with surviving actors, technicians, and Powell; and Powell's An Airman's Letter to His Mother, read by John Gielgud and eerily relevant today, alas.
Powell had long carried a 1930 newspaper clipping about the relocation of the inhabitants of the Scottish island of St. Kilda when life there became just too hard to endure. But it wasn't until 1936, when he met Joe Rock, a man with a love of "exterior pictures," that the elements were in place to make what Powell always considered his first real film (though he began directing in 1928).
With its mix of Foula islanders and professional actors (Finlay Currie among them), World launched Powell, who later made The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus, into the forefront of British cinema. As the Pope proclaimed last week of a more recent film: "It is as it was." SHEILA BENSON
MORE RECENT TO disc are the pleasant but slight British adaptation, I Capture the Castle; Woody's dreadful Anything Else with Jason Biggs and Christina Ricci; and Jeepers Creepers 2, which is two too many of those. Also out Dec. 23 is the SIFF favorite L'Auberge Espagnole, one of the more charming and accessible foreign-language films of the year, with an international cast including Audrey Tautou. EDS.