Jacques Offenbach died before he could finish Tales of Hoffman, and no definitive version of it exists. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger used that fact as an opportunity to take quite a few liberties with it. It's sung in English translation, and the directors have dropped the sung and spoken prologue in favor of a pantomime with orchestral accompaniment. Stella is now a ballerina instead of a singer, and Linsdorf never speaks at all. These changes muffle the composer's intended theme that Hoffman's love life was getting in the way of his work and that the Muse of Poetry always frustrated his relations with women. The directors, however, seem to want to promote a different idea. The over-the-top decor, the costumes, and the mannerisms of the film create an atmosphere that is frankly gay, and the depiction of the female characters is determinedly misogynistic. All of them, from the female dragonfly to Antonia (Nicklaus is supposed to be a boy), are vain, egoistic, venal, or empty-headed; the only possible exception is Stella, and she allows Linsdorf to lead her away at the end. The only true place for a male poet apparently is with his drinking buddies.
Tales of Hoffman is an engaging film nonetheless; Offenbach had a talent for catchy melodies. Also, Moira Shearer's light-footed Olympia makes it difficult to watch anybody else in the role, especially a hefty well-fed singer. The lip-sync and the recording are good. The only dissonance is Nicklaus's wide hips. If this is ever issued on DVD, it could use English subtitles.