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A Matter Of Life And Death [DVD]
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Classic fantasy from Powell and Pressburger in which an RAF pilot must argue for his life in a celestial trial after a mix-up sees him survive a fall from his plane. When Peter Carter (David Niven)'s plane is struck on his way back to England from a bombing mission and his parachute destroyed, he prepares himself for death. Incredibly, however, he awakes safely on the ground the next day. It turns out that the emissary sent from Heaven to carry him to his death, Conductor 71 (Marius Goring), was unable to locate him in the fog, but has now arrived to take him to the next world. Carter refuses to go, having fallen in love with the radio operator who talked to him while the plane was going down, June (Kim Hunter). A trial is convened in Heaven to see if Carter should be allowed to live on. Will the pilot be able to convince the court that his love for June is strong enough that he should be given another chance?
Briefed by the Ministry of Information to make a film that would foster Anglo-American relations in the post-war period, innovative filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, came up with A Matter Of Life And Death--an extravagant and extraordinary fantasy in which David Niven stars as a downed pilot who must justify his continuing existence to a heavenly panel of judges, because he has made the mistake of falling in love with an American girl (Kim Hunter) when he really should have been dead. National stereotypes are lampooned as the angelic judges squabble over his fate. In a neat reversal of expectations, the Heaven sequences are black and white, while Earth is seen in techni-colour. Daring cinematography mixes monochrome and colour, incorporates time-lapse images, and even toys with background 'time freezes' 50 years before "The Matrix". Roger Livesey and Raymond Massey lead the fine supporting cast, in what is one of the undoubted jewels of British cinema.
On the DVD: A Matter of Life and Death is presented in reasonably sharp 4:3 ratio with decent mono sound. Aside from English hard-of-hearing subtitles there are no extras. --Mark WalkerSee all Product description
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(1946 release) which tells a Twilight Zone morality tale of common Anglo-American interests and shared values. That could have been as swarmy as "Hellcats of the Navy" but Cardiff's visions are unforgettable. That's why this is a Classic, capital-C, along with "black Narcissus" and "The Red Shoes". Cardiff would go on to shoot "The African Queen" and "The Vikings" and finally a body of lesser work but these three are considered his masterpeices, and *need be seen*. They hold up like Hitchcock or Kubrick or Kurasawa, and the term "hold up" sounds condescending in the light of the genius in evidence here. This is contemporary, modern art, just as Picasso or Ligeti is.
I won't say too much and spoil the rest of the movie for those who haven't seen it, but I will say that the shots of Heaven and Earth are cleverly filmed in contrast, with all earthly scenes in bright glorious colour, and Heaven in soft black and white. This works really well - very atmospheric. The moving stairway to Heaven and 'frozen-in-time' shots are excellent and every time I watch this lovely old movie, I enjoy every minute, even though Peter's 'Case', held in the 'other world' for staying alive, does go on a bit too long. The story is quite believable, even if you do not have a spiritual faith. The supporting actors are excellent.
This DVD production is very good, but note that the commentary by the photographer is a short "extra" feature and not as an option whilst the film is running, otherwise 10/10!
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