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Black Narcissus (1947)
A story of exquisite yearning in a strange and beautiful land. Towering over the screen ... as the mountains that saw it happen.
Director: Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell

A group of Anglican nuns, led by Sister Clodagh, are sent to a mountain in the Himalayas. The climate in the region is hostile and the nuns are housed in an odd old palace. They work to establish a school and a hospital, but slowly their focus shifts. Sister Ruth falls for a government worker, Mr. Dean, and begins to question her vow of celibacy. As Sister Ruth obsesses over Mr. Dean, Sister Clodagh becomes immersed in her own memories of love.

Black Narcissus (1947)

Black and White but Not Red All Over

“Red Shoes” is a truly important film, significant enough to be on my short list of films that changed film forever — and to some extent life. It is rich and complex with all sorts of nested realities and choreographed eyes. But it is hard work in the viewing, almost too complicated.

Here is a sketchbook for that work, something that is remarkably simple in construction, even abstract — something that exists only for the images.

And what images! Dutch light. Red hair in both leads. Masterful use of interior architecture, good placement of faces in the narrative stance. Some spicy exoticism.

But the coloured light is what makes this great. Each and every shot is composed, but the composition is not determined by the characters or situations. Every shot is composed to maximise the visual pleasure, reverse engineered from our eye. It is as if by the very act of seeing, we create what we see and have the joy of knowing what we create is beautiful.

These nuns failed in their effort to create a world, but we succeed. Great fun, and we don’t notice the work.

Posted in 2003

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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