A Matter of Life and Death ★★★★½

Every once in a while the term "movie magic" seems to have actual meaning and gravity, and a healthy proportion of those occasions come courtesy of Powell & Pressburger; this may be their loftiest, most romantic film of all, yet its colorful, lyrical enormity is fully justified by the genuine emotional content of the story about an RAF pilot (David Niven) who seemingly survives a great fall without a parachute, during which he falls in love with a radio operator (Kim Hunter) and begins to have visions of the afterlife attempting to recruit him. Made ostensibly to assist the relationship between allies in the war effort -- this causes a comical but distracting sideline during the courtroom scenes -- this works most rapturously as a purely invigorating film about the mysterious forces of romantic love, and their elemental power over the universe; you needn't interpret the story as a religious one to find it inexpressibly moving. The Archers never met a story that they didn't put every kind of invention and energy behind, and nearly every scene here is majestic in one way or another. A fiery, passionate, gorgeously visualized Technicolor marvel -- with nearly infallible visual effects -- that makes lesser movies that probe at similar ideas like Warren Beatty's Heaven Can Wait look even more facile.

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