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The Powell & Pressburger Pages

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 Tipu

Agee on Film
Black Narcissus

From "Agee on Film" by James Agee

Black Narcissus (1947) Several nuns get upset by the strange atmosphere of and surrounding, their new convent, which was formerly a Himalayan harem. (Quite an idea for a musical that. Take it away, Rita.) One (well played by Kathleen Byron) falls for a local Englishman (David Farrar) and fails to renew her vows. The head nun (Deborah Kerr) just makes sisterly sheeps' eyes at him as he lunges around the sanctuary in his shorts (he is not, one gathers, a Believer). There is also a local Holy Man, staring at a peak, and a great deal of talk about the wind and the strangeness of it all. After a while the Sisters give it up as a bad job. It is all intended to be very "psychological", "atmospheric", "rueful" and "worldly-wise". I suspect that the worst faults lie in Rumer Godden's original novel; that Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger were badly mistaken in trying to make a movie of it at all. There is some good [Oscar winning] color photography, and as movie-making some of it is intelligent and powerful. But the pervasive attitude in and toward the picture makes it as a whole tedious and vulgar P.S.: Barring perhaps one in any hundred who willingly practice it, I think celibacy is of itself faintly obscene; so I admire still less the dramatic exploitation of celibacy as an opportunity for titillation in the best of taste. [and thus are dismissed The Sound of Music and 10,000 other films]

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