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Thread: Black Narcissus

  1. #1
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    The restored version of this film to be shown at the NFT and Edinburgh festival has been to the BBFC and only has a running time of 96m 40s as opposed to the 100m 47s version released theatrically in 1985.

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    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Originally posted by JamesM@Jul 1 2005, 02:10 AM

    The restored version of this film to be shown at the NFT and Edinburgh festival has been to the BBFC and only has a running time of 96m 40s as opposed to the 100m 47s version released theatrically in 1985.
    Why was the version passed by the BBFC in 1985 given a running time of 100m 47s when the version they passed in 1986 had a running tim e of 96m 8s?



    The 1986 version was a video release and if you do the calculation for different running times on film & video it gives a difference of just 37 seconds.



    100m 47s = 6047s

    96m 8s = 5768s

    6047 * 24 / 25 = 5805s

    5805s - 5768s = 37s



    Although the 2005 version has the BFI named as the distributor I know that the work to make the print was really done by Granada so someone at the BBFC might have assumed it was for a video release.



    The BBFC do say that this version is only 8699 feet, rather than the 9071 of the 1985 release. But I don't know if those figures for the length are accurate.



    I'll ask a few people. I'll also pay close attention when I go to see it at the NFT in August.



    Steve

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    Unless the 'digital future' is PAL!

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    It seems I am right. More Powell and Pressburger films have been issued new certificates shortened in length by 4% so the films will be videos screened at the NFT.

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    Originally posted by JamesM@Jul 5 2005, 10:37 AM

    It seems I am right. More Powell and Pressburger films have been issued new certificates shortened in length by 4% so the films will be videos screened at the NFT.
    Not videos as such...digital projection, and the NFT set-up is state-of-the-art.

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    I know that really. I did not realize these would be PAL though.

  7. #7
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    It's just a shame that they're closing the main screen for refurbishment during August while they're showing all those lovely films.

    Check the timetable.



    AMOLAD in the courtyard of Somerset House looks to be an interesting idea though.



    Steve

  8. #8
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    Was this film Britain’s best bar nun?



    Powell and Pressburger’s Black Narcissus is a very English tale of bottled-up sensuality. It’s also a masterpiece, says James Christopher



    THERE ARE few places more in tune with the sexual frustration of women at the moment than the dark concrete basements on the South Bank in London, SE1.

    In the Lyttelton Theatre at the National, Federico Garc�*a Lorca’s play The House of Bernarda Alba stars Penelope Wilton as a fiendish matriarch in charge of five febrile daughters in mourning for their dead father. Just a stone’s throw away, at the National Film Theatre, is a newly minted digital print of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1947 classic film Black Narcissus. These are, quite simply, two of the greatest works of art about repression yet made.



    The venerable Jack Cardiff, now aged 90 and happily living in Paris, won an Oscar for his “color cinematography? on the Pinewood epic. The director Michael Powell, who died in 1990, admitted that it was the most erotic film experience of his life. In actual fact, Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960) was far more disturbing, but few know the secrets of that film, and as we grow ever more nostalgic and iron maiden-ish about the past I doubt many will remember the controversy.



    I live in hope that Howard Davies’s production of The House of Bernarda Alba might strike a timely tune, but I may be plucking in vain. The sad fact about Powell — says David Thomson, an influential admirer, critic, and formerly a personal friend of the director — is that “he was written off as an eccentric decorator of fantasies?. Frankly, I don’t think this is true.



    Powell and Pressburger might be regarded by some as one of the stodgiest football teams of the 20th century after delivering films such as The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), but the two film- makers are brilliant about colonial airs and graces. They cobbled films together in a country (Britain) that was emotionally stunted.



    The theme of Black Narcissus is terribly brutal, and very, very English. A handful of nuns are shipped north from a dull place in India to a Himalayan castle — once a boudoir to an Indian prince — to teach wisdom and manners to the local natives. The stumbling block is an Empire bounder called Mr Dean (David Farrar), who wears a tight pair of khaki shorts and unbuttoned short-sleeved shirts. By the end of the film he hardly bothers with clothes at all.



    I like Farrar’s suave and cynical stud. He’s a rum old soak from the pages of Joseph Conrad. He has sizzling green eyes and a comb-over quiff, and there isn’t a chance in hell that he will run out of pipe tobacco or whisky one-liners. He’s the daily attraction in this racy mountain outpost. But when push comes to shove he’s a mere detail in the shooting match between Deborah Kerr’s fabulously tight Sister Clodagh and Kathleen Byron’s psychotic Sister Ruth. There are poster shots of these two duelling queens that make the eyes water. Unspoken tensions flutter in the constant breeze.



    Jealousy colours the picture as profoundly as pride and the perfumed flowers. The bottled sense of hysteria is quite unique. I’m not sure why that is. Studies of the film are choked with topical conjecture. There are cobwebs of references to iconographic and literary themes. Frankly I’ve seen better films about “the awakening of a buried sensuality? and better references than Jacques Tourneur’s I Walked with a Zombie .



    One of the pioneering delights of Black Narcissus — the title, ironically, refers to a scent sold by the Army and Navy Stores in London — is simply the way every frame is painted. The retouching is exquisite. The clarity a genuine surprise. To see the film fully restored on the big screen is a rare joy.



    Where to place Black Narcissus in the premiere league of best British films is an agonising call. There’s little debate about its merits, and endless argument about scenes and moments that it subsequently inspired. I doubt Powell and Pressburger had the slightest clue about how influential their collaboration would prove. In the 1940s, the Archers — the name of their lucrative production company — was the Marks & Spencer of British cinema. A quality brand that minted a succession of remarkable films including A Matter of Life and Death (1946) and The Red Shoes (1948) — still regarded as the ballet musical by which all others are measured.



    Black Narcissus was a film they invented in their pomp. They dissolved the company in 1956 and, unusual in this business, parted as friends. Alone they never quite found their feet. But the treasures they left behind are now priceless.

  9. #9
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    There are some great puns that people are using about Black Narcissus as they all write about this new print.



    My favourite so far is Sisters With Altitude.



    Steve

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    'Black Narcissus' was the first Powell and Pressburger movie I ever watched. It was part of the BBC's 100 season in 1995 to celebrate cinema's first centenary. I remember being struck by the shot of Kathleen Byron in her red dress walking in front of some green foliage at night. It was the moment that I discovered that one could use colour creatively and effectively in a film. I also (and still do) found the line, "Sausages!Europeans eat sausages whether they go." very funny indeed. Network Video are re-releasing the DVD with extras (including the Scorsese/Powell commentary) so now I feel really stupid for buying the vanilla one in Harrods.

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    (Clinton Morgan @ Sep 4 2005, 11:17 PM)

    'Black Narcissus' was the first Powell and Pressburger movie I ever watched. It was part of the BBC's 100 season in 1995 to celebrate cinema's first centenary. I remember being struck by the shot of Kathleen Byron in her red dress walking in front of some green foliage at night. It was the moment that I discovered that one could use colour creatively and effectively in a film. I also (and still do) found the line, "Sausages!Europeans eat sausages whether they go." very funny indeed. Network Video are re-releasing the DVD with extras (including the Scorsese/Powell commentary) so now I feel really stupid for buying the vanilla one in Harrods.
    I first saw Black Narcissus as a 10 year old child and it has a had a profound impact on me ever since. Many showings later, certain scenes still stand out. Deborah Kerr thinking back to her pre-habit days, the dazzling climax, featuring Kerr and Kathleen Byron, the whole aura of stifled emotion, Jack Cardiff's magnificent colour cinematography, shown superbly in a scene in which Kathleen Byron applies red lipstick in mesmerising fashion. A jewel of British cinema and one that should be cherished.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Country: Great Britain Mark O's Avatar
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    A great and very atmospheric Movie.......here's Judith Furse dressed for her role as Sister Briony (Sister Briony has taken to living in the Mountains well, judging by the snoring coming from her Cell!)

    Judith is obviously a popular character actress here at Britmovie going by the posts I've read, looking forward to seeing her 'Probation officer' role in Serious Charge!




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    What I find truly amazing is that the film was shot almost entirely in a studio.



    The much admired Himalayan scenery was all created in the studio (with glass shots and hanging miniatures).



    I heard Jack Cardiff comment on how people have told him they had been to the exact locations they were at to film the movie, it was so realistic. And I have to say that until I just recently watched it again and watched the extras, I too thought it was filmed on location in the Himalayas.

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    What I find truly amazing is that the film was shot almost entirely in a studio.

    The much admired Himalayan scenery was all created in the studio (with glass shots and hanging miniatures).



    I heard Jack Cardiff comment on how people have told him they had been to the exact locations they were at to film the movie, it was so realistic. And I have to say that until I just recently watched it again and watched the extras, I too thought it was filmed on location in the Himalayas.


    The magic of P & P in this film is breathtaking

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    The magic of P & P in this film is breathtaking
    I think it is due in large part to the genuis and magic of Jack Cardiff. For him the camera and film was the paint and canvas of an Artist.



    When I was a child and a movie was about to start and I saw The Archer's logo, or the man banging the Janus gong, I always knew I was in for a magical experience.

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    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    I think it is due in large part to the genuis and magic of Jack Cardiff. For him the camera and film was the paint and canvas of an Artist.

    When I was a child and a movie was about to start and I saw The Archer's logo, or the man banging the Janus gong, I always knew I was in for a magical experience.
    A large part due to Jack, yes. But he is always ready to say that it was a team effort with everyone doing what did very well. But Kathleen Byron said that the "death's head" look she got as she came out of the double doors at the end was partly due to make-up and a lot due to Jack's lighting. They're all so self-effacing about having created a masterpiece, how very British



    There were also more traditional artists at work doing things like that wonderful perspective painting that shows us the vertiginous drop below the bell tower. That was painted by Peter Ellenshaw who went on to do a lot of background paintings and matte work for Disney's live action adventure films like The Black Hole (1979)



    Steve

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    A large part due to Jack, yes. But he is always ready to say that it was a team effort with everyone doing what did very well. But Kathleen Byron said that the "death's head" look she got as she came out of the double doors at the end was partly due to make-up and a lot due to Jack's lighting. They're all so self-effacing about having created a masterpiece, how very British

    There were also more traditional artists at work doing things like that wonderful perspective painting that shows us the vertiginous drop below the bell tower. That was painted by Peter Ellenshaw who went on to do a lot of background paintings and matte work for Disney's live action adventure films like The Black Hole (1979)

    Steve
    I agree with that and Jack Cardiff is like most great men, never wanting to take enough credit for their due. It is a really amazing bit of film making. I was quite flabbergasted when I found out how it was made.

  18. #18
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    name='Nita St. James']I agree with that and Jack Cardiff is like most great men, never wanting to take enough credit for their due. It is a really amazing bit of film making. I was quite flabbergasted when I found out how it was made.
    And that the bell tower platform is really only about 3 feet above the ground



    A less known one is about the Palace building. Whenever we see it from the outside we see that it's got 2 or 3 floors. But I've got a "behind the scenes" still somewhere that shows that they only built the ground floor. All the upper floors were "filled in" with a matte or a hanging miniature. Even when you know it's hard to see the join.



    Although talking of joins. The most recent restoration does give away the secret a bit with that shot of the view below the bell tower that you've included here. The lower part is OK but the join is quite obvious higher up the bell tower. Sometimes a super-sharp restoration isn't always the best solution.



    Steve

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    And that the bell tower platform is really only about 3 feet above the ground



    A less known one is about the Palace building. Whenever we see it from the outside we see that it's got 2 or 3 floors. But I've got a "behind the scenes" still somewhere that shows that they only built the ground floor. All the upper floors were "filled in" with a matte or a hanging miniature. Even when you know it's hard to see the join.



    Although talking of joins. The most recent restoration does give away the secret a bit with that shot of the view below the bell tower that you've included here. The lower part is OK but the join is quite obvious higher up the bell tower. Sometimes a super-sharp restoration isn't always the best solution.



    Steve
    I'll pay particular attention to that the next time I watch it.

  20. #20
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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

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