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The Tales of Hoffmann [1951] (REGION 1) (NTSC) [DVD] [US Import]

4.7 out of 5 stars 86 customer reviews

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Region 1 encoding. (This DVD will not play on most DVD players sold in the UK [Region 2]. This item requires a region specific or multi-region DVD player and compatible TV. More about DVD formats)
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Product details

  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Unrated (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00008YOFG
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 183,937 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
One of the finest and most unexpected opera productions ever to appear on DVD. Astonishing that it should have come out half a century ago and still seem so breathtakingly immediate. In a way it's a hybrid, with only three of the main singers appearing on the screen, the rest being danced. Yet there is no sense of dislocation - and what a cast, especially among the dancers. A precious record of four superb artists at the peak of their profession. Musically, too, of its period: yet effortlessly transcending it under the direction of Thomas Beecham. The sophistication is astonishing. Unforgettable visual images abound - images which seem to establish an authoritative version of a problematic, unfinished work before which which director after director has been found wanting. Not so Powell and Pressburger. They have never been on better form.
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Format: DVD
Poor Hoffmann. He is a poet who is famously unlucky in love. As a young student in Paris, he first fell in love with Olympia (Moira Shearer). She was a gorgeous creature with pale, silken skin, luminous eyes and red hair. Unfortunately, she was an automaton. Then, as a man of the world in Venice, he fell in love with Giulietta (Ludmilla Tcherina). She was seductive, with black eyes that held promises and with long, raven hair. Unfortunately, she stole men's reflections and then their souls. Next, as a famous poet visiting a beautiful isle, he fell in love with Antonia (Ann Ayers), a young, passionate opera singer. Unfortunately, she suffered from consumption. Throughout it all, he is accompanied by a young and skeptical friend, Nicklaus (Pamela Brown), and followed by the sinister Lindorf (Robert Helpmann), who seems determined to thwart Hoffmann. Now, he waits in a tavern for his new love, the ballet dancer Stella (Moira Shearer). And while he waits and drinks, everyone urges Hoffmann to tell them the tales of his loves. And in this opera by Jacques Offenbach, and in this marvelous movie by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, he does.

The Tales of Hoffmann is a linear descendant of Powell's and Pressburger's The Red Shoes. The same themes of art, love, life and choices are explored. Even some of the same artists are present: Moira Shearer, Robert Helpmann, Leonide Massine and Ludmilla Tcherina. The Tales of Hoffmann, however, stakes out new ground. Powell and Pressburger have taken an opera and turned it into a fantasy of cinema unlike any opera ever staged, or any film ever made. It moves from light, amusing and eccentric to dark and sinister. An undercurrent of romanticism is present, but we end up with romantic pessimism.
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By schumann_bg TOP 50 REVIEWER on 6 Feb. 2015
Format: DVD
To see The Tales of Hoffmann is a unique experience that leaves you wanting to go through the fantastic scenes all over again. Sometimes seen as a decline from the pinnacle of The Red Shoes, made three years earlier in 1948, it is nevertheless the realisation of Powell's ambition to create "a composed film", meaning one which combines opera with cinematic images of the intensity and interest that the medium offers. It also makes the main character a ballerina, so that singing and dancing are combined to humorous effect in one of the Tales, an impossibility for any performer to pull off. At the beginning we see Moira Shearer "on stage" in The Enchanted Dragonfly, a romantic ballet with eye-popping sets and costume design. But this is only the Prologue; she is loved by the poet Hoffmann, who, in dejected mood because his note to her has been intercepted unbeknownst to him, leaves the theatre to tell the story of his three loves to a group of students in a tavern. The three parts which follow are all in different colour schemes and highly fantastical, often drawing on the supernatural, as the directors did at the end of The Red Shoes. But that tone is sustained throughout here, and realism dispensed with, even in the tavern itself, where figures dance around massive beer mugs with faces as Hoffmann sings his brilliant number about the clown Kleinzach. The first of his lovers is a wind-up doll, blissfully played with a mixture of supple grace and stiffness by Shearer, then it takes off to a wonderfully artificial Venice, all superimposed water and vampish ploys from a courtesan who steals men's souls - and their reflections - for an evil pimp.Read more ›
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
The film has been beautifully restored, and the Blu Ray transfer is excellent. Sadly at the time this film was made the British film industry was not quite as advanced as its American cousins in terms of technology. Whilst the Technicolor print is first class, the soundtrack is only Mono, and not as vibrant or dynamic as some American films of the same period, which were often made using stereo or multi channel sound. That said, the restoration is superb and the film is a joy to watch and a must for any Opera or Ballet enthusiasts. This film includes some of the greatest artists of the period if not of the last century
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
The films produced by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger in the period 1941-1951, perhaps the British Film Industry's only 'Golden Age', were by no means met with all-round enthusiasm at the time, either from critics or audiences; in truth they were too idiosyncratic, too imaginative, too much against the prevailing grain of British films for general acceptance. Only in recent decades have the best of them achieved classic status, constantly shown on television and newly appraised by critics. Moreover, surprisingly and gratifyingly, the great American director Martin Scorsese has been at the forefront of this re-appraisal, to the extent of promoting the restoration of the best and most interesting of the films through his non-profit organisation, The Film Foundation. This 1951 version of Offenbach's opera-with-ballet, The Tales of Hoffmann, is the nearest realisation of Michael Powell's ideal of a 'composed film', in which the other arts could be synthesised to form a special form of art. With the astonishing, sometimes wildly extravagant design by Hein Heckroth it has much of the flair and imagination that informed its great predecessor, The Red Shoes,and, indeed, reunites four of the stars of that film - Moira Shearer, Robert Helpmann, Leonide Massine and Ludmilla Tcherina. The principal actor-singers are the American baritone Robert Rounseville as Hoffmann and Ann Ayers as Antonia (in the final segment).Read more ›
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