Black Narcissus (The Criterion Collection)
The Criterion Collection
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This explosive work about the conflict between the spirit and the flesh is the epitome of the sensuous style of filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (I Know Where I’m Going!, The Red Shoes). A group of nuns—played by some of Britain’s best actresses, including Deborah Kerr (From Here to Eternity, An Affair to Remember), Flora Robson (The Rise of Catherine the Great, Wuthering Heights), and Jean Simmons (Great Expectations, Hamlet)—struggles to establish a convent in the snowcapped Himalayas; isolation, extreme weather, altitude, and culture clashes all conspire to drive the well-intentioned missionaries mad. A darkly grand film that won Oscars for its set design and for its cinematography by Jack Cardiff (The Red Shoes, The African Queen), Black Narcissus is one of the greatest achievements by two of cinema’s true visionaries.
The Criterion Collection takes its second go at the Powell-Pressburger classic Black Narcissus, first issued by the company as title no. 93 in 2001. This 2010 disc retains some extras from the first issue, including a commentary track with Michael Powell and Martin Scorsese, and a 25-minute documentary called "Painting with Light," focusing on the work of cinematographer Jack Cardiff. The new extras, some incorporated from recent international DVD releases, include a warm 9-minute introduction by filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier (accompanied by various production stills); an 18-minute featurette called "The Audacious Adventurer," again with Tavernier as guide through the film; and "Profile of Black Narcissus," a 25-minute behind-the-scenes piece that includes comments from Cardiff, actress Kathleen Byron, and critic Ian Christie. All of these are affectionate and useful, if somewhat repetitive taken together. The most important reason for the Criterion reissue is improved technical quality for the film itself, as the previous release was deemed problematic compared to other international versions. Those improvements having been made, this version can only be called a wow. --Robert Horton
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Top customer reviews
This film--about Anglican nuns trying to establish a convent/school in a former harem in the Himalayas--is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. I wish I could explain and describe the beauty of the cinematography and the colors, but I just can't.
Deborah Kerr is excellent as Sister Clodagh and Kathleen Byron is terrifying as Sister Ruth. It is a crime neither were nominated for Oscars for their roles. However, the Oscars rightfully awarded this film for the said cinematography and the dazzling sets.
Black Narcissus is--simply put--a beautiful film.
This VHS claims to be the "original, uncut version," but surely it has been edited quite a lot because the story barely made any sense. Sabu is given second billing (and plays the title character), yet is onscreen for only moments. Jean Simmons, playing a supposedly irresistible native wench gets even less camera time, and their relationship is entirely missing. Also missing is any attraction between Farrar and the nuns or any progression into madness. The acting is uniformly awful; Kerr gives a dour, one-note performance while everyone else overacts shamelessly. After reading glowing reviews of other editions, I am sure this version has had the very life cut out of it.
First, the theme of the movie is about polar contrasting ideals, a local culture that revels in masculine ideals and romantic escapades with woman who idolize and treasure attention from men. This is contrasted with the isolated, withdrawn culture of the nunery.
Second, the colors and lighting of the scenes correspond to the contrasting cultures of the film, the scenes taking place outside the nunery are full of color and sunshine, while inside the colors are drab and plain.
Ultimately the contrast has an effect on all characters of the film those on the oustide, the general and local Brit respect the determination and innocence of the nunery and the sisters begin to feel a longing for the romance and excitement of the outside.
This film will sincerely impress you with its images, as well as is powerful, yet unspoken, themes of romance and sexual desire.
I never thought a nun could look so sexy, just wait until the one Sister changes her appearance towards the end!
Most recent customer reviews
Hot Toasty Rag, July 23, 2017
Deborah Kerr plays a nun who’s transferred against her will to head up a new seminary and school in...Read more
(1947, UK, 96 min, colour, English subtitles, Aspect ratio: 4:3, Audio: Mono)
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s Black Narcissus (1947)...Read more