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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Film Pick of the Week
Stairway to Heaven (A Matter of Life and Death)
A delightful fanstasy about a bomber pilot caught between worlds - ours and the afterlife. He may be only imagining the "other" world, but, if so, he's doing it so logically that his "dreams" (if that's what they are) may be the giddy precursor to actual death. Then again, he may not be dreaming at all. Credit for this ambiguity goes to the magic team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes and Tales of Hoffmann). They have created a pair of worlds, both fantastic, which exist in a credible balance.
The scenes set on "earth" (filmed in Technicolor) so resemble a garden paradise - lush foliage, wide empty beaches - that the flier, impeccably played by David Niven, thinks he's in heaven for the first few minutes after he washes ashore. The scenes set in "actual" heaven (in black and white) evok such concrete splendors of spectacular architecture - The Parthenon, skyscrapers, Fritz Lang's Metropolis - that they seem to exist between the beats of dreaming human thought. It may be the hereafter that lives in our collective unconscios, the flier's included; it may be the actual heaven. Who can tell? What's the difference anyway? As a feat of style, with its gorgeous mixture of black and white and Technicolor, Stairway to Heaven (known in Britain as A Matter of Life and Death) is a vigorous ancestor to Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire. As fantasy, it bogs down only when the British flyer, who has fallen in love with an American girl on earth, goes to trial in heavenly court. The celestial lawyer, played by Raymond Massey, holds forth for a long minute or two about tensions between the U.S. and Britain that were topical in 1946, but which date the film now. Small matter though - most of this lost treasure spins in its own luscious eternity. (Nuart; April 14-27)
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