Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.
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Submitted by Mark Fuller
A Matter of Life and Death
By Stephen Watts
From: Sunday Express
3 November 1946
It was not a film star but Anthony Kimmins, sailor, broadcaster and producer, who hit the note I wanted to hear at the first Royal Command film performance.
He said that when he and others like him returned from war absence they found that a miracle had happened. British films had found themselves. They were applauded; they had real stars the public wanted to see.
After Kimmins finished, some of those British stars made their bows. They looked a fine bunch. But even better evidence of the miracle had gone before. The film chosen for the show, "A Matter of Life and Death", was, to say the least, worthy of the occasion.
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, who made it, like to break new ground, to do on the screen what cannot be done in any other medium. This time they have done it with a romantic fantasy sustained on a remarkably high plane of intelligence and good humour. This they have interlarded with no less remarkable realism. I found the mixture fascinating.
Between Two Worlds
At the core of the film is a brain operation, but with what happy and ingenious invention they have embellished their theme.
A pilot jumps without a parachute from a blazing bomber. He has been talking over the radio to an American WAC. Miraculously he survives the jump and meets the girl, but he is concussed and has hallucinations.
In these he sees his survival as a mistake by the Records Department of a non-theological hereafter, a cold, streamlined place, but the sort of limbo an imaginative son of this mechanised age might well conceive.
On the real side (which is in the most beautifully shaded Technicolor I have ever seen) a doctor struggles to save the airman's life and reason. On the fantastic (which is in an unearthly yet lovely monochrome) he has to stand trial and show cause why he should not join his ancestors.
The talk of the trial scene drags the film down in terms of visual interest, but it is always sensible and often, for these internationally controversial times, daring.
David Niven, as the pilot, gives the thoughtful, whimsical joke a warm and human heart. His delicate yet apparently utterly natural blend of the romantic and the humorous is just right for the part.
There are excellent performances too from Roger Livesey, Marius Goring, and Raymond Massey. Kim Hunter introduces herself charmingly as the pretty and touchingly perplexed heroine.
Any tendency to criticise specific moments is curbed by the feeling that if the film had been made in, say, Germany in the '20s it would now be on show at esoteric gatherings as one of the classics of Cinema. Enough for now that it is an original and praiseworthy picture which succeeds as novel entertainment while exploring higher levels.
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