3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best British film of all time?
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...
Published on Feb. 18 2001 by MH
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful cinematography - dated story and style
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...
Published on April 7 2003 by Lori
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best British film of all time?,
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent service & product,
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This review is from: Black Narcissus (Criterion) (DVD)
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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,
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.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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 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.
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. Good story and GREAT AUDIO which had been expand into a pseudo-5.1,fom the original MONO.
5.0 out of 5 stars A strangely wonderful film,
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.
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable, on many levels...,
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. I was most taken with the performance of May Hallatt as the crazy caretaker of the palace, who really put a lot in perspective. It's impressive that director Powell and writer Pressburger were in such close collaboration that they took equal credit for everything. As the liner notes tell, England was slow to recover after WW II, and watching the English nuns leave the most spiritual surroundings somehow suggest that the English had no business in India. They didn't understand their surroundings. Interesting. (David Lean's wonderful "A Passage to India" had a similar message). There is a cleansing rainstorm as the nuns leave, which suggests that life will go on, as usual, though the look on Farrar's face at the end is less than hopeful. My favorite moment is when May Hallatt finds out a bunch of "ladies" will be coming, expecting the old days of the harems. Imagine her surprise when she gets a bunch of nuns. If you haven't seen this film already, prepare yourself for a truly visual treat. Young filmmakers should see this, to learn about plot/character development, real conflict & resolution. I'm glad to own it.I
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. One of the most beautiful DVD transfers I have ever seen. Only equaled in it's use of color by Micheal Powell and Emeric Pressburger's other color films like THE RED SHOES. A must have.
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 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.
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. Several times while watching this movie it was the unsaid lines, what I knew the characters were THINKING that had a strong impact.
Upon viewing documentaries about the making of this movie masterpiece, I came to further realize it also had some of the finest special effects you will ever see. Even though there are blue-screens and miniatures used, and almost the entire movie was shot on a sound stage (that's right, those clouds adn mountains are PAINTED backgrounds), you would NEVER guess it without being told. I was shocked when I found out.
After seeing this movie again recently, I must confess that this movie is a shing example of what great acting is all about. At the start of the movie, everyone is very much one kind of person. There's a great scene where almost all the nuns are in one room, and each one has something to say. One nun is sweet and good natured, another strong and sensible, their leader is cold as an iceberg and totally in control. And of course, one of the nuns is not quite right. Her comments are negative, sharp, and harsh (to say nothing of erratic). As the environment, isolation, and ATMOSPHERE of their surrounds start to get to them, you'll see the strong surface layer (the mask if you will) that each character carefully displays break down, leaving only their raw emotional core. AMAZING. And speaking of amazing...
As I said before, the first time I saw this movie, I was completely blown away by the use of color. But nothing could have prepared me for the beauty of what you see on the DVD. Truly it has to be seen to be believed. The crystal-clear, super-vibrant totally unbelievable color on this DVD truly has to be seen to be appreciated. Do NOT see this movie on VHS, see it on DVD. Several keys scenes would lose much of their power. In particular, the scenes of incredible drama and suspense to be found at the end of the movie come to mind. When one of the characters is getting paler and paler (to the point where the scene almost looks black and white), and then you see her in a BRIGHT RED DRESS wearing BRIGHT RED LIPSTICK, the use of color is positively SHOCKING.
What can I say? Every film made by the unstoppable dream team who called themselves "The Archers" is great stuff. But this movie is beyond great. It is the single greatest example of use of light and color I have ever seen in a movie. To give it four stars would be a disturbing insult. It deserves six at least.
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Black Narcissus (Criterion) by Michael Powell (DVD - 2010)
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