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Thread: Black Narcissus

  1. #21
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Yes its hard to imagine that we are not in the Himalayas but most of these shots were done at Leonardslee Gardens near Horsham Sussex. It does work really well and we are all fooled by it.

    The whole film is beautifully photographed with a sumptious colour that almost takes your breath away. I love the early scene in Ireland when Deborah Kerr's character, prior to becoming sister Clodagh, receives from her Grandmother the emerald necklace. She is wearing the most gorgeous green dress and with Debroah Kerr's lovely red hair, everything seems to shimmer like the necklace and compliments each other. Jean Simmons with her very seductive dance adds to the tension that is mounting in the film.

    Truly one of P&P'S best!



    Maralyn
    One of, but they made so many masterpieces



    My favourite scene is in the first "Irish Idyll" flashback where Clodagh is fishing in the lough. She's standing in the water in thigh high waders, wearing a gingham shirt and with her lovely red hair blowing free. But gorgeous as she is, what I really like is the light sparkling on the rippling water. If you see that on a huge screen so that if fills your field of view, it's just stunning



    Steve

  2. #22
    Super Moderator Country: UK christoph404's Avatar
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    "Black Narcissus" my favourite P&P film, and in my opinion the most visually stunning technicolor film ever made. I never tire of watching it

  3. #23
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    "Black Narcissus" my favourite P&P film, and in my opinion the most visually stunning technicolor film ever made. I never tire of watching it
    I am a real sucker for The Red Shoes, it was quite stunning visually too.

  4. #24
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    I am a real sucker for The Red Shoes, it was quite stunning visually too.
    How far into the Pacific Northwest are you Nita? Did you see that they showed Black Narcissus at the Seattle Art Museum on 22 January?

    Thelma Schoonmaker (Michael Powell's widow and Martin Scorsese's multi Oscar winning editor) introduced it along with the less well known Bluebeard's Castle that Powell did for German TV.

    As for The Red Shoes, another stunning piece of work, also filmed by the wonderful Jack Cardiff. But as I said above, Powell & Pressburger did make quite a few masterpieces and it is sometimes hard to choose between them. Although the one that does it the most and the best for me is A Matter of Life and Death.



    Steve

  5. #25
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    Shame, Thelma always makes it an interesting evening.

    Keep an eye on the Powell & Pressburger web site. That's where I put the list of forthcoming events - when I get to hear of them. Mind you, I do get to hear about most of them. With all the people here and all the people in the P&P email group, there's not a lot that escapes our notice and attention

    Steve
    Oh yes atleast I have seen interviews with the woman, she is fascinating, and she really knows her stuff. I'll keep an eye on that website. I didn't know anything about this at the time. I never read the Seattle papers much.

    I must say that I am on several other movie forums, and this Forum is just wonderful. I really feel like I have finally found alot of people that love the same movies I have enjoyed all of my life. Certainly not the "flavor of the month club" as so many other forums seem to be.



    Cheers!

  6. #26
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    The radio version was very good. An adaption of course to put it into the 5 slots of 15-20 minutes. And it was adapted from the book, not the film. There were some parts in there that were in the book, but not the film, like Sister Philippa leaving early although they didn't bring in her replacement who was in the book



    Steve

  7. #27
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    Until I chanced upon this site, I thought my thinking that P&P's films were masterworks was an eccentric view, shared by only a few. For drama, sheer lyrical drama, LADOCB, IKWIG, AMOLAD, ACT, and Black Narcissus are part of a select group. how can one choose between them? Do we reach a point beyond which it makes little sense to say this one is my absolute favourite? This is just a thought, as I really can't decide.

    As for a comedy, surely Kind Hearts must be in the top five. So dark; so mannered; so brilliant. And the Lady killers.

  8. #28
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Until I chanced upon this site, I thought my thinking that P&P's films were masterworks was an eccentric view, shared by only a few. For drama, sheer lyrical drama, LADOCB, IKWIG, AMOLAD, ACT, and Black Narcissus are part of a select group. how can one choose between them? Do we reach a point beyond which it makes little sense to say this one is my absolute favourite? This is just a thought, as I really can't decide.
    It is very difficult to choose an absolute favourite and when people do it's usually more of a gut reaction than anything that they can explain with any reasons.



    For me it's a very close run thing between all of their major films. I think they're all superb. But for some reason AMOLAD just pushes all the right buttons and contains so much of so many things that I'm interested in and fascinated by. And it moves me to tears more readily than the others. Not because it's sad, by no means. They're just the upwelling of a raw emotion that can't be contained because it's so beautifully done.



    Steve

  9. #29
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    Must-have movie: Black Narcissus (1947)



    Last Updated: 12:01am BST 25/04/2008



    Marc Lee on Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's film about religion and repressed carnal desires



    After watching Kathleen Byron in one of the best films produced by Britain's greatest ever filmmaking partnership, it's hard to understand why she never rose higher in the thespian pantheon. Her name comes way down the Black Narcissus cast list, but her chilling, thrilling performance as a nun driven mad by lust is easily the film's most memorable.



    More roles came her way, but, Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan notwithstanding, Byron's talents were largely confined to a string of B movies, after which came TV appearances in Emmerdale, Casualty and Heartbeat.



    In Powell and Pressburger's adaptation of Rumer Godden's novel, Byron plays Sister Ruth, one of a handful of nuns despatched to set up a convent school in a former concubines' palace high in the Himalayas. Conditions are so extreme - the altitude, constant howling winds, a lingering atmosphere of debauchery, and a dubious water supply - that a sort of mass hysteria develops, and each of the sisters finds herself confronted by inner demons.



    Repressed carnal desires are ignited when the raffish local agent Mr Dean (David Farrar) turns up, catching Sister Ruth's eye as well as that of Clodagh (Deborah Kerr), the Sister Superior.



    Kerr's performance, though not as flashy as Byron's, has a powerful intensity as Clodagh becomes increasingly haunted by an unrequited love of her youth.



    The strength of her religious calling, it seems, is suddenly in doubt; then, when Ruth finally flips, transforming herself into a desperate, wild-eyed vamp in a scarlet dress and the reddest of lipsticks, even Clodagh's life is in danger.



    The film won Oscars for its art direction and cinematography, which realise the nuns' vertiginous eyrie and the exotic mountainous setting so magnificently it's easy to forget that it was all shot no further east than Pinewood, Bucks.

  10. #30
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    By far my favorite of P&P movie if not the best I have ever seen. I hope the R2 new blue-ray will be a stunning transfer above the French relase - which was magnificent also.

  11. #31
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    By far my favorite of P&P movie if not the best I have ever seen. I hope the R2 new blue-ray will be a stunning transfer above the French relase - which was magnificent also.
    Will it stand being made in any higher resolution, or will that then start to show the joins too much?



    There are a lot of scenes that use matte shots or hanging miniatures. Sometimes where you'd least expect them. The last time I saw a 35mm print it was a very good print that had had some restoration work done on it (not sure what stage they went back to, if it was a full or partial restoration) - and that was beginning to show some of the joins where the mattes were used



    Steve

  12. #32
    Super Moderator Country: UK christoph404's Avatar
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    Will it stand being made in any higher resolution, or will that then start to show the joins too much?

    There are a lot of scenes that use matte shots or hanging miniatures. Sometimes where you'd least expect them. The last time I saw a 35mm print it was a very good print that had had some restoration work done on it (not sure what stage they went back to, if it was a full or partial restoration) - and that was beginning to show some of the joins where the mattes were used

    Steve
    I think with a film like this modern technology and restoration techniques can take the film to realms of quality that never really existed in its original form. In other words you can take things too far and the illusion starts to crumble slightly because the sharpening and so on is too scientific. I would hope those involved in restoring a film like this are aware of that but I do agree that going further and further down the path of higher resolution and restoration has to be done very carefully.

  13. #33
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    I hope they also correct the error in the archive print.



    First, a bit of background:

    In the "madness of Sister Ruth" sequence when she gets all agitated when she & Mr Dean are shouting at each other she famously "sees red" (and there's a wash of red across the screen) and then she faints. But the BFI archive print goes to BLUE!! Not just any blue but the bright blue of a blue screen.



    I wrote to the BFI and told them that it should go to BLACK, not blue. I said in the letter that I'd heard of people having a black-out but never a blue-out :)



    I also mentioned that I'd checked with Jack Cardiff and Ian Christie and they both agreed that it should go to blue not to black.



    I suspect that it's because there was some modern electronic kit in the process that saw "no light" and interpreted that as "no signal" and modern kit often uses blue for "no signal".



    The response from the BFI (March 2003) admitted that the fault was theirs and said that they would be looking to "have this section reprinted before we are able to allow it to be screened again". In the meantime the print will be withdrawn from circulation."



    So if anyone was due to see BN they'd better check it's still going to be shown and if the BFI really have "withdrawn from circulation" all their prints - Sorry



    But I'm still puzzled as to why Criterion's DVD goes to blue whereas Carlton's correctly goes to black.



    Steve

  14. #34
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    I always found this film fairly impenetrable, but I'm willing to have another go at it reading all the good stuff here.

  15. #35
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    I watched this for the first time last week and still have not sorted out my response to it.



    It is a must-see for anyone who cares about film because of the production, thanks to the genius of Jack Cardiff and Alfred Junge.



    From the first sequence, the use of color and light and the techical wizardry of the production design are so rich and dazzling that it is too much to take in. I had to watch several scenes - or at times, several specific images - a few times to even begin to appreciate them. This is true even before the nuns arrive: the mother superior deciding who will serve at the convent as the camera focuses on one after another from a high perspective and the aya running through the light and wind of the palace, preparing it for Esmond Knight's arrival.



    The flashbacks are unlike anything I have ever seen in any other color film: the light on the water and the vivid green of Deborah Kerr's dress as she runs out, literally, into darkness. A Powell and Pressburger production seems to demand superlatives, and "breathtaking" is the word I would use here.



    Yet having said that, I disliked the film intensely as a whole. It is the first P&P film I did not like, and it is hardly surprising that there would be one film out of so many great ones that I did not respond to.



    The enomous discrepancy between the production and the content left me bewildered and surprised. At best, this material is lurid melodrama - a pop-Freud view of the religious life that is a dark mirror to the sentimentality of The Sound of Music - and equally absurd. The standard for this sort of thing is Fred Zinneman's The Nun's Story with Audrey Hepburn: a serious, thoughtful fim.



    The theme of repression could be an interesting one, but it is not addressed seriously here, and the primary characters are certainly not repressed - Sister Cloda is projecting like a house afire from the first scene, popping her eyes and pressing her lips and making it clear she is Bitter and Angry and more than a little Power Crazy.



    One painful love affair transforms her personality (and not for the better)? Really? I wanted to know more. It was just a plot device.



    Sister Ruth is already unbalanced at the beginning, and by the end she is carrying on like something out of The Exorcist.



    Apparently the Mother Superior did not know her job. What conceivable reason could there be to send this woman to an Indian oupost?



    At worst, it is just rubbish - and the film itself degenerates into a horror movie with Sister Ruth wandering through a swamp in her Red Dress and the two woman battling on the edge of a precipice. I couldn't believe it. I didn't know what to make of it. How could the creators of truly great films treat a story with such lack of depth and understanding?



    The performances of Flora Robson and Judith Furse and Jean Simmons suggest the depth that might have been. They create complete characters in a few scenes. I kept waiting for the story to return to them: real human beings doing battle with an extraordinary situation. But the camera kept going back to the three main characters, with David Farrar in his Robinson Crusoe get-up with those two frenzied "nuns", and it turned into kitsch.



    After it was over, I felt disoriented. I experienced something similiar when I saw Ryan's Daughter as a boy: an epic production of a pipsqueak story. But this discrepancy was much greater. I took a long walk, trying to understand it.



    These two artists have given me so much sheer joy over the last few months. Twice before, I experienced a similar opening of a door: the great silent films when I was in my 20s and the epics of David Lean when I was a boy. I owe them a great deal. A few days after this, I watched Tales of Hoffman and found again the brilliance of P&P, telling a story with a generous spirit and perception.

  16. #36
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Yet having said that, I disliked the film intensely as a whole. It is the first P&P film I did not like, and it is hardly surprising that there would be one film out of so many great ones that I did not respond to.

    The enomous discrepancy between the production and the content left me bewildered and surprised. At best, this material is lurid melodrama - a pop-Freud view of the religious life that is a dark mirror to the sentimentality of The Sound of Music - and equally absurd. The standard for this sort of thing is Fred Zinneman's The Nun's Story with Audrey Hepburn: a serious, thoughtful fim.
    Could that reaction be because it was the first film they'd done in that sequence of work from Forty-Ninth Parallel (1941) which wasn't an original story? That they didn't have as much invested in it because they hadn't watched it grow from the original idea. Maybe also because it was their first adaptation of someone else's story.



    Gone to Earth (1950) has a similar problem to some extent. It's visually stunning, the landscape plays an important part in the film. But the story itself is lurid and melodramatic.



    It's interesting that although BN (and to a lesser extent GTE) is admired for its technical excellence, it doesn't usually invoke the same passionate devotion that the earlier films that were original stories (Blimp, ACT, IKWIG, AMOLAD) inspire.



    Steve

  17. #37
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    I could not disagree with you more.



    BN is the quintessential P&P movie. Remember that it is based on a novel by Rumer Godden. Another of her novels was The River – filmed by Renoir. Another fabulous story and movie.



    BN has all of the fine traits expected of a great movie – passion, religion, horror, tragedy and perhaps even a smear of melodrama. I thought the acting was first rate from Kerr and Byron. And who can forget the youthful beauty of Simmons and the majesty of Sabu.



    I agree totally on the technical value including the Technicolor print.

  18. #38
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    Soaring extravaganza comes to mind when I think about 'Black Narcissus' just like King Vidor's 'Duel In the Sun' both films indulge in such phantasmagoric visuals that all common sense seems to be lost and therefore a first viewing of this film can be discouraging to say the least but I would say watch it again--- and again---- and again, in fact watch it lots of times because this one gets better and better. The Archers were experimenters in a mainstream film industry, enjoy them for what they are artists who were allowed to wonder and make mistakes, although I don't think Black Narcissus was one of them.



    Always interesting to hear someones views on this heady film after a first viewing, I think many of things you say I may of thought as well first time round but now I'm a full convert---- no pun intended.



    Simon

  19. #39
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    The problem with the film is that it does not address religion or tragedy. Those issues are used not for their significance but for excitement - perhaps the very definition of melodrama.

    I expect the very best from Powell and Pressburger. They have led me to expect it. Here, they reached the very peak (no pun intended) with the genius of Junge and Cardiff. But they fell far short with that story and, espcially, that plot.

  20. #40
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    Steve - I was addressing TimR



    We shall just agree to disagree TimR.

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