Kathleen Byron

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A Matter Of Life And Death Review


Excellent
When a modern viewer considers the work of Michael Powell -- whose perverse Peeping Tom is a cult classic -- a tender love story that defies death -- yes, a little like Ghost -- is not something that typically comes to mind.

Yes, sure, Powell (and frequent collaborator Emeric Pressburger) made family fare like The Red Shoes, but A Matter of Life and Death (often known by its alternate title, Stairway to Heaven) is something entirely else. To wit: The story involves a British airman named Peter (David Niven), who is on the verge of crashing his plane during his World War II mission, and spends his last moments before bailing out speaking over the radio to American wireless operator June (Kim Hunter), with whom he makes a special connection. Peter jumps before crashing, but is surprised to find himself washing up ashore, fully intact. And wouldn't you know it, he soon encounters June, and the two are immediately in love.

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Black Narcissus Review


Very Good
Widely hailed as one of the most beautiful films ever shot, Black Narcissus is a strange tale of Anglican nuns who establish a convent in an extremely remote region of the Himalayas. Obviously not a great idea, but weird locals, altitude sickness, and sketchy personal pasts all conspire against the gals. To be sure, the cinematography of Narcissus -- notably an ending that must have stuck in Hitchcock's mind for decades -- is to die for, utterly pioneering for its time and deserving of its two Academy Awards (art direction and cinematography), but its story has never totally grabbed me. Sure, women of the cloth might have demons in their pasts. Doesn't everyone? The ending is chilling, but the subplots fall flat, including two about a local wild-woman and a studious boy who wants to learn everything there is to know. Should've stuck to those crazy nuns.
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