This is what happens when your car breaks down on a Sunday morning and you have nothing else to do…
After opening a convent in the Himalayas, five nuns encounter conflict and tension as they attempt to adapt to their remote, exotic surroundings.
In a perfect world, this is what comic book movies would look like. Powell and Pressburger took every visual trick in the book, it feels like, to craft this. It's not just the colors (which are widely touted) nor the painted backdrops (which feel more real than the best CGI) nor the huge spaces (which convey isolation and expansiveness at once--you feel so small and alone knowing how much of the world there is). It's also the blocking (see how Kanchi relates to the Little General, for instance) and the movement (the birds in their cages, the edges of the mountain making people flinch, the camera adjusting angle in an angular room) and the transitions (fading from Mr. Dean to…
The theme is from Forster and I Know Where I’m Going!, worked out "at the back of the beyond" by The Archers at their most carnal-bonkers-sublime. The old harem known as "the House of Women" is perched on the edge of Himalayan precipices, turning it into "the House of St. Faith" is the mission accepted by the Irish Sister Superior (Deborah Kerr) and her Anglican order. Quite a challenge for sanctity: There are howling winds up above and drums in the bamboo jungle below, plus the hirsute thighs of the sardonic government agent (David Farrar) to erode the resolve behind the pale habits. The stony cloister with clogged-up plumbing, the bejeweled Little General (Sabu) and the wayward odalisque (Jean Simmons),…
I suppose it was only fitting that I rejoined my run of The Archers films today with this particular film after making this list earlier!
I have to admit to being rather daunted by the prospect of watching Black Narcissus. In fact, it's probably a feeling I have about almost all of The Archers films. Not because I was worried about them being difficult or complex - in fact, so far they have all been about as approachable a selection of films that the uninitiated could possibly hope them to be.
It was more to do with the writing about them afterwards that I was daunted by. You become aware, even…
Film #29 of Project 40
”Remember, the superior of all is the servant of all.”
To put it simply Black Narcissus is about failure. About limitation. About arrogance. About madness. It was a terrifying experience to tell you the truth. On the surface it is a gorgeously shot movie with sharp colors and beautiful scenery but beneath this dazzling superficial layer lies a petrifying world of carnal desires, verbal threats and mental confusion with characters who are haunted by their own fears and doubts. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger take their characters to the end of the world and leave them alone with their own erratic minds and erotic fantasies and then witness their physical, spiritual and mental collapse. Black…
Director: Michael Powell (and Emeric Pressburger) (Third Film)
Black Narcissus is startling. It's startling because of its omniscient and thick erotic atmosphere, and all of this, in a film about nuns setting up a school in India. The immediate purity of the clothing worn by the nuns is (yet again) masterfully inventive as it opposes the natural and vibrant colours of the Himalayas and its surrounding terrain. Carnality meets oppressed sexuality in a film that doesn't rely on plot or story but wholly on the colours to express, and the atmosphere to emote and the occasional spike in emotional verbalisation from a hysterical Kathleen Byron.
Her moments are the pinnacle because of her fantastical performance: and her hysteria…
This one's going to take some time and another viewing or three to properly absorb. But it's absolutely brilliant.
A meditation on spiritual commitment versus the temptations of the world, set in a nunnery high in the Himalyas. And what a world. Gold, silk, flowers, mountains. Men who run around with their shirts off -- and who remind Deborah Kerr's nun of her lost love. Sensual Indian paintings on the wall of the old palace where the nuns now reside; look carefully, and you'll find a few bare breasts on the walls. Candlelight dancing in the dark hallways.
And all of it shot in gorgeous technicolor by Jack Cardiff. It's not as unreal as The Red Shoes, and yet the…
American poet A.R. Ammons once said, "There's something to be said in favor of working in isolation in the real world." Sister Clodagh (Kerr) had this much in mind when she took a Mother Superior position in a secluded former seraglio turned makeshift school and hospital in the Himalayas. She brings with her a bevy of Anglican sisters and the emotional baggage of a failed relationship back in Ireland. Looking to create a world anew under strict Anglican and Christian principles, the sisters are slowly seduced by the wild, untouched region they inhabit and the wanton attitudes of the locals including two wards: Kanchi (Simmons), and The Young General (Sabu). Aiding in the erosion of the order is Mr. Dean…
Another Powell & Pressburger film with a plot that on the surface could not sound less appealing to me.
Another complete masterpiece.
Everyone says it's a drama; I'd swear it's a comedy.
Geez oh man.
Perhaps Deborah Kerr is the most adorable nun I've ever seen either in Black Narcissus or Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison.
Oh, man. What can one say about this movie? It's a must see; that's for sure. The first Nunsploitation? A fantastical drama turned horror film? It's so many things. It's gorgeous in a very artificial way, almost entirely shot on sets (and entirely shot in the U.K.). Throughout, there is an unreal, dreamlike quality that adds to the unsettling nature of things as the plot moves forward and the characters descend into...Well, whatever it ends up being. Some extreme, over the top performances are pitch perfect. Really, something to see. And one of these days, I'll see it on the big screen.
Beautiful film with great actors, Deborah Kerr, David Farrar, Esmond Knight, and Kathleen Byron. Being technicolor the colors were as intoxicating as the location and I felt drawn in to the fever dream with the sisters, it brought a feeling, an awakening, and Powell and Pressburger have a genius of bringing madness bubbling at the surface in a beautiful way.
Though set in India, not one frame of Black Narcissus was exposed outside of England. Indeed, the movie — save for one or two shots taken at a nearby botanical garden — was filmed at Pinewood Studios with matte paintings and backdrops supplying the scenery and giant fans providing Mopu’s ever-present wind. With no outside elements to contend with and beholden to no reality, Powell and Pressburger — and their collection of technical mavens — exercised complete and precise control of the entire production. They build their story quickly and economically, watching as these nuns buckle under the surmounting pressure until, in one of the cinema’s greatest climaxes, Sister Clodagh and Sister Ruth give in. It’s pure emotion and it’s a directing tour de force, one that life-long admirer Martin Scorsese describes as, “A cross between Disney and a horror film.”
In other words: Black Narcissus is an Archers’ film. And it’s perfect.
Full review at Boulder Weekly.
Another great film from Powell and Pressburger. Looks gorgeous and feels unlike most things I've seen from that era.
A list that, if nothing else, proves the day-to-day usefulness of applied statistics.
Between 2015 and 2016, a series of…
Movies that are slightly off.