Thursday, February 19, 2009

Michael Powell

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1990 of film director Michael Powell. Perhaps best known for his collaborations with Emeric Pressburger, there was a blogathon a while back honoring that team. has some articles on them. Senses of Cinema has an article with lists and links.

I've seen The Red Shoes. I'm watching Black Narcissus (1947) to honor this anniversary. Criterion has an edition that my favorite DVD store often has in stock. The film is based on a novel with the same name by Rumer Godden and stars Deborah Kerr, Jean Simmons and Sabu. Brian Easdale, who won an Academy Award in 1948 for his work on The Red Shoes, wrote the score.

Youtube has it online in 10 parts, though there are problems with the sound synchronization in a couple of the sections. Part 1:

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10

Interestingly, the Order of the Servants of Mary, to which these Anglican nuns purportedly belong, is a Roman Catholic order for men.

Bright Lights Film Journal points out some flaws in the movie. calls it "one of the most visually imaginative and expressive contributions to a cinema heralded more for its naturalism than such exercises in studio-bound artifice." The BBC says, ""Black Narcissus" is a masterly exploration of the dangers of ambition, British reserve, and unbridled emotion."

The photo at the top of the post comes from the Wikipedia page.

8/25/2009: The Criterion Contraption has a review which says,
We can stand around and argue all day about whether or not it's a good idea to present female desire as something akin to demonic posession, but it's still unforgettable.2 For those twenty minutes, Black Narcissus is a master class in horror filmmaking.
and that note #2 is, "2 In our enlightened age, no one would make a movie with a character like Sabu's childlike general. But we keep churning out the Sister Ruths. It's lucrative."


  1. I hope you've had the opportunity to see A Matter Of Life and Death. David Niven, Roger Livesey, Paul Massey and the woman who'd later be an ape, Kim Hunter.
    I highly recommend it. It's a film the word magical was made for.

  2. I haven't seen that one. As it happens, I have no plans tonight and the movie is available online. Thanks!