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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - August, 2010

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"Black Narcissus" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

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Synopsis

Plagued by uncertainties and worldly desires, five Protestant missionary nuns, led by Deborah Kerr's Sister Clodagh, struggle to establish a school in the desolate Himalayas. All the elements of cinematic arts are perfectly fused in Powell and Pressburger's fascinating study of the age-old conflict between the spirit and the flesh, set against the grandeur of the snowcapped peaks of Kanchenjunga. Beautifully restored, it won Oscars for “Best Cinematography” and “Set Design” in 1947.

Specifications

  • Criterion Collection
  • 1947, Color, Rated PG, 1 Hr 40 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • 1080p
  • Codec: Not Specified
  • English Dolby Digital mono
  • Starring: Deborah Kerr, David Farrar, Flora Robson, Jean Simmons, Sabu
  • Directed by Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: No
  • Sex: No
  • Language: No

Commentary

Another gorgeously restored classic film from the Criterion Collection. This visually stunning picture has color and details that jump out at you. An interesting tale of nuns setting up a cloister in the Himalayas and finally falling under its spell of sexual suppression and desire. What’s more interesting is the fact that there is no sex portrayed in the movie. It’s more about the atmosphere and look of fervor on the nun’s faces. Nothing overt, but the tension is quite palpable. The very things the nuns have left in their pasts come back to haunt them. In one case, suppression will lead to madness. This is a very unusual film with an exciting and memorable conclusion. It will intoxicate the viewer with its mood, like the scent of the flower after which this film was named. A must see film.

Technical

Picture quality is stunningly cleaned up and full of rich colors and details. When the close up of Sister Ruth putting on the red lipstick was shown, I actually puckered! The contrasts and shadow deliniation are all spot on. Sabu's character dresses in opulent costumes with embroidery and jewels that just look fantastic. A stunning demo quality picture. Sound is mono, but quite clear. You'd never guess this movie was from 1947, not only for the picture quality, but the subject matter as well.

Extras

Video introduction by French filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier • Audio commentary featuring the late director Michael Powell and filmmaker Martin Scorsese • The Audacious Adventurer, a 2006 video piece in which Tavernier discusses Black Narcissus and Powell • Profile of “Black Narcissus” (2000), a twenty-five-minute documentary • Painting with Light, a twenty-seven-minute documentary about Jack Cardiff’s Oscar-winning cinematography on Black Narcissus • Original theatrical trailer • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Kent Jones.