If you are unfamiliar with the magnificent film work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, have you got a treat in store for you! Two of my favorite films, the unforgettable "A Matter of Life and Death" (known in America as "Stairway to Heaven"), and the witty, mature "Age of Consent", have been packaged together as the "Michael Powell Double Feature (Age of Consent, Stairway to Heaven)". This is a MUST-BUY DVD SET!!!
1946's "Stairway to Heaven" is as close to a perfect fantasy as you'll ever see on film, offering one of David Niven's greatest performances, as a downed airman, living, literally, on borrowed time, as he missed being snatched by death. Soon, he starts hallucinating from a brain tumor, and he stands trial in heaven (strikingly portrayed in black and white, as opposed to the rich, technicolor 'real' world), for his right to continue living. A perfect cast, including young Kim Hunter, Marius Goring, Raymond Massey, Robert Coote, and the fabulous Roger Livesey, plus a humane, witty script, combine to create one of the best films ever made!
1969's "Age of Consent", Powell's last film, while not as 'stellar' (in every sense of the word) as "Stairway", is a remarkable film in it's own right, as a bohemian Australian artist (James Mason, in one of his favorite roles), walks away from a lucrative art career in New York, and takes up a beachcomber life on an island of the Great Barrier Reef. He soon meets nubile young Helen Mirren (in her film debut), and they enter a richly productive (and platonic) relationship, as he paints unabashedly sensual nudes of her, and she renews in him a passion to create. While the comic relief of Mason's moocher acquaintance Jack McGowran is sometimes criticized as too broad, I don't think it hurts the film (the residents of the island are also portrayed as more than a bit balmy). The film's pacing is relaxed, the visuals, breathtaking, and Mason and Mirren are wonderful together! The story, incidently, is loosely based on the life of an actual Australian artist, Norman Lindsay, and would be retold in 1994's "Sirens", with Sam Neill as Lindsay.
With terrific insights by Powell fan Martin Scorcese, Helen Mirren, and Powell's son, Kevin, and great commentaries, this will be a double feature you'll treasure!