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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)
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Product Description


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
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best British film of all time? Feb. 18 2001
If not the best-then surely in the top ten.The quality of this DVD is hard to beat with the best Technicolor work I've ever seen.The focus is razor sharp and the colors soft and warm. I hope that Criterion release "A Matter of Life and Death" and "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" in restored versions at some time in the future.Powell and Pressburger-along with Jack Cardiff-did some great work back in the forties and its wonderful to see it get the presentation it deserves.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent service & product Feb. 1 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Excellent sur toute la ligne. Produit de première qualité et expédié rapidement !
Exactement comme promis et selon la réputation du fournisseur.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful cinematography - dated story and style April 7 2003
By Lori
I agree that the cinematography was absolutely gorgeous. However, at that point I part company with most other reviewers. This could have been an excellent and compelling story had it not been the victim of Western cultural myopia. Did anyone wonder why there are palm trees in the Himalayas, or cawing jungle birds? Did anyone wonder why Mr. Dean struts around in shorts, sandals, and unbuttoned shirts in the mountain peaks near the top of the world? Did anyone wonder why African drums are beating, or why some of the characters look more African than the Asian denizens of the Himalaya? Why not just set the film in the Congo a la "The Nun's Story"? Granted, the Himilayas make for a terrific setting for a film about losing one's grip on one's "civility", faith, and even sanity. But it would have been so much better had the filmmakers taken the time to find out what people of this part of the world really dress like, what the weather is really like, what the terrain is really like. I just found the whole "Africa, Asia, who cares, it's some third world country" attitude, while probably typical of American and British attitudes of the 1940's, to be distracting and to detract from the power of the film. Having said that, let me reiterate that it is an extremely beautiful film, worth watching, though not without some disappointment.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eroticism runs riot in a nunnery Oct. 25 2003
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 is more'. It has been remarked about some famous religious art works that there appears to be a conjunction between the face in a moment of religious ecstasy and the face in a moment of sexual ecstasy. Mr Powell and Mr Pressburger understood that entirely and made a feast of it. Just to consider the use of red: blushing nuns, red flowers, blood on a white habit, cherry lipstick, magenta dress, ruby shoes, a maroon compact... Combine this with the pulsating drums, everpresent wind, the oiled bodies of the "natives" and images of a booted foot hovering near the prostrate body of one of the nuns and you have a film of extraordinary sexual power. Never have the bare legs of a male, from just above the knees down, looked so provocative as they do in this film. But this is just part of this magnificent work. To own.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Photograghy!! July 8 2007
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. Good story and GREAT AUDIO which had been expand into a pseudo-5.1,fom the original MONO.
Edward Kerr
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5.0 out of 5 stars A strangely wonderful film Sept. 7 2005
By A Customer
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. 4 2004
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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Most recent customer reviews
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
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 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. 7 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
3.0 out of 5 stars Rent it for it's Camp Value
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... Read more
Published on June 23 2003 by Bruce Kendall
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
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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