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Black Narcissus

Deborah Kerr , David Farrar , Emeric Pressburger , Michael Powell    Unrated   DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 69.99
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Black Narcissus + The Red Shoes (Criterion)
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Product Description

Amazon.ca

The Criterion Collection takes its second go at the Powell-Pressburger classic Black Narcissus, first issued by the company as title no. 93 in 2001. This 2010 disc retains some extras from the first issue, including a commentary track with Michael Powell and Martin Scorsese, and a 25-minute documentary called "Painting with Light," focusing on the work of cinematographer Jack Cardiff. The new extras, some incorporated from recent international DVD releases, include a warm 9-minute introduction by filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier (accompanied by various production stills); an 18-minute featurette called "The Audacious Adventurer," again with Tavernier as guide through the film; and "Profile of Black Narcissus," a 25-minute behind-the-scenes piece that includes comments from Cardiff, actress Kathleen Byron, and critic Ian Christie. All of these are affectionate and useful, if somewhat repetitive taken together. The most important reason for the Criterion reissue is improved technical quality for the film itself, as the previous release was deemed problematic compared to other international versions. Those improvements having been made, this version can only be called a wow. --Robert Horton

Product Description

Plagued by uncertainties and worldly desires, five Protestant missionary nuns, led by Deborah Kerr's Sister Clodagh, struggle to establish a school in the desolate Himalayas. All the elements of cinematic arts are perfectly fused in Powell and Pressburger's fascinating study of the age-old conflict between the spirit and the flesh, set against the grandeur of the snowcapped peaks of Kanchenjunga. Criterion is proud to present Black Narcissus in a new Special Edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A strangely wonderful film Sept. 7 2005
By A Customer
Format:DVD
One day, while I was washing the dishes, I turned on the TV and started flipping through channels, landing on "Black Narcissus", which was just ending. I had tuned in to the big climax, so I, of course, didn't fully understand what was going on, but after seeing the ending I thought, "I have to see this movie!!!" I was mesmerized by the images, the music, the acting, everything! Luckily, the same channel was rerunning the film later that night, so I was able to tape it and watch it the next day.
"Black Narcissus" is truly a cinematic classic. It won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, and it is no wonder. The recreation of Mopu Palace on the mountain with its incredible drop are amazing and very realistic, especially for the 1940s. There are so many scenes that I love, but I don't want to give away the plot. The climactic ending is incredible, as is the "lipstick" scene between Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron)and Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr). I also love Sister Clodagh's flashback scenes, especially the one where Sister Clodagh's face is superimposed on the face of the character as a young woman, before she became a nun, telling the man she loves "I want to stay like this the rest of my life". A poignant moment when we realize that she became a nun to escape the shame of a failed love affair.
The movie can be rather strange at times; I found May Hallatt's character to be overdone in certain scenes, but at other times she is brilliant. Kathleen Byron as Sister Ruth is unforgettable, and Deborah Kerr is excellent, as usual. All the actors are quite good in their roles.
I wouldn't say that this movie is for everyone, but if you like good cinema, then give it a try.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable, on many levels... Jan. 3 2004
Format:DVD
The Criterion DVD edition of "Black Narcissus" brings out the most brilliant aspects of the film, a brightness and splendor that makes the drab Order of Mary nuns re-think a few things. The magnificent & exotic locale, high in the Himalayas, as well as clashing cultures trying to meld, make this a most absorbing experience. Okay, the nuns take a castle in the mountains to teach the locals. That's all I'll tell of the plot. The psychological experiences of each nun are vividly portrayed, as well as the intrusion of a local girl and an Indian prince. A very mystic atmosphere pervades, and the nuns start thinking mundane thoughts. Ah! The mystery of the mountains! It's a bit of a downer to find out that you're not seeing the Himalayas in their splendor; rather, all was filmed on a stage in England. The Oscar-winning art direction and cinematography are totally responsible for creating this wonderfully mysterious place. The Criterion version preserves the phenomenal photography, with colors clashing against each other, creating a visual display of the confusion those poor nuns were facing. Indeed, they all changed, in one way or another. Clear and crisp, you can see every facial wrinkle and every minute detail of costumes and jewelry. A fine achievement. Shadows against sunlight, and brilliant color...quite lovely. It's fun to see a post-adolescent Sabu, though here he plays a fancy young guy and looks uncomfortable, considering his greatest fame came wearing a much more comfortable loincloth. The rest of the acting is excellent, without exception. Deborah Kerr, in one of her first big roles, is commanding, as well as Kathleen Byron, Flora Robson, David Farrar, and an amazing performance by a 17-year old Jean Simmons, as a little Indian tart. Read more ›
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3.0 out of 5 stars Rent it for it's Camp Value June 23 2003
Format:DVD
Being a huge fan of the artistic team's Stairway to Heaven (AKA A Matter of Life and Death) and The Red Shoes, and after reading the glowing reviews in regards to this film, my expectations were very high going in. Unfortunately, I felt that I had been let down. Sure, the cinematography is brilliant. A technicolor wonderland, lush and vivid. But beyond the visual feast lies a story that, by today's standards, is just a tad Pythonesque.
Hot house nuns with barely suppressed libidos, cloistered in a Himalayan potentate's former love palace, with appropriately erotic artwork festooned upon every wall. A British agent, Mr. Dean (David Farrar) showing up in short shorts and sometimes bare chested, never mind the fact that the convent/school is situated in the foothills of the Himalayas at 8000 ft. with the wind constantly ripping through the windows (which no one seems able to close). A subplot involving a young Jean Simmons made up to like a tartish Bengali dancing girl thrown into the mix to provide a bit more sexual tension (a screenwriter's rip off of Bessy Watty from The Corn is Green, produced a year previous to this film and still fresh in viewers' minds). Add to this the fact that, when habited, Kathleen Byron looks remarkably similar to Paul Rubens (Pee Wee Herman), and you have the makings of a camp classic.
In all honesty, if you want a film with an interesting script as well as sexually frustrated nuns, I would highly recommend that you purchase a copy of Ken Russell's The Devils. That film has held up well over time and has a much better pedigree (adapted from Aldous Huxley's The Devils of Loudon)to back it up. Despite the rave reviews you may hear about this Archer production, it's really just 100 minutes of silliness.
BEK
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent service & product
Excellent sur toute la ligne. Produit de première qualité et expédié rapidement ! Read more
Published 19 months ago by MFJ
2.0 out of 5 stars So, so
Not up to expectations -- rather dull to tell the truth. Definitely a rental, not a purchase.
Published on Oct. 5 2010 by ZybotCRX
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect
A perfect film that uses metaphor, colour, landscape to portray an inner dimension to people previously unavailable to the screen. Pure genius. Read more
Published on Dec 27 2007 by Daniel Goorevitch
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Photograghy!!
Great coluors , views;a bit dark ,at times but overall a fine print. The only wish that the description offerred at the end of the DVD had been transcribed into English. Read more
Published on July 8 2007 by 'Space Captain'
3.0 out of 5 stars an unusual slow paced film.
This review is for the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film.
In my opinion, this film's plot was kind of boring and slow. Read more
Published on June 10 2004 by Ted
5.0 out of 5 stars Eroticism runs riot in a nunnery
Not only is this the most erotic British film ever made... it is one of the most erotic films ever and in terms of understanding what IS erotic, is a pre-eminent example of 'less... Read more
Published on Oct. 25 2003 by Ian Muldoon
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Powell and Pressburger's best.
Visualy perfect, colorful, brilliantly directed and acted. My favorite Criterion Collection DVD. Only gets better with each viewing. Read more
Published on Sept. 6 2003 by J. A. Stankunas
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible Movie Regardless of Cinematography
A lot of the people here give this movie glowing reviews, not in small part due to the cinematography. Basically, who cares if the filmwork is pretty if the movie stinks? Read more
Published on July 12 2003 by David A. Lessnau
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tour-De-Force of Cinematic Genius!
The first time I saw Black Narcissus, I was amazed by the use of light and color. That and the EXTREMELY good use of dialog and atmosphere to convey thoughts to you. Read more
Published on June 19 2003 by Strategos
5.0 out of 5 stars THEY WERE GONE BY THE TIME THE MONSOON SET IN...
This is the anti-imperialist's rationalization for the Brits quitting India, while at the same time not being too harsh on the Raj: "I couldn't stop the wind from blowing; I... Read more
Published on April 21 2003 by Stephen M. Amy
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