Michael Powell

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A Matter of Life and Death
C L A S S I C   M O V I E

1946, 104 MINS, UK, Colour, B&W.

A Matter of Life and Death Movie French Poster
A Matter of Life and Death, French Poster, 1946


Dir: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Prod: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Scr: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Ph: Jack Cardiff
Ed: Reginald Mills
Mus: Allan Gray
Art Dir: Alfred Junge


David Niven
Kim Hunter
Marius Goring
Roger Livesey
Raymond Massey
Richard Attenborough
Kathleen Byron


A Matter of Life and Death
Review (1946)

"A romantic, daring and beautiful allegorical fantasy - one of the best of the Powell/Pressburger movies."
Martin Scorsese

"It's a story with humour and heart, a genuine classic that rewards with repeat viewings. *****"

A Matter of Life and Death UK Dvd
A Matter of Life & Death
UK Dvd

A Matter of Life and Death is one of the most beautifully poetic films I've ever seen. Not really because of the love story which is fine enough but in the way the story is told. The exquisite tricks Powell & Pressburger use (the stairway, the eye, still frames etc.) are assimilated seamlessly into the story and take you like a bird over a coloured dreamscape of what hitherto in our minds eye was a black & white 1940s Britain. Incorporating Surrealistic trickery effortlessly into a film is one of the hardest things to do and not even the great film directors Hitchcock & Cocteau managed it with quite the same skill as Powell/Pressburger.

Make no mistake: this is the ultimate counterpoint to the Britain of that time. It was made at the end of the 2nd World War and Britain would continue along the path of unimaginable austerity that was endured during the war itself for years afterwards. To many of us today we perhaps forget or don't know that rationing didn't end with VE Day but went on into the 1950s. The cost of the war had made the country near bankrupt, few had anything, and the hardships suffered by most would just go on and on.

By contrast, A Matter of Life and Death was the banquet of imagery and of colour so missing in Britain. Its colour courtesy of the colour merchant, the colour guru of gurus, cinematographer Jack Cardiff, filled in the greyness of everyday life - the famous stairway of A Matter of Life and Death took its British audiences high above the monotony of going without. In other words, it was a message of hope, at least for British cinema and its audiences, that from even limited budgets art could be created. Sadly, the film proved one of the exceptions in British cinema for there has been few films since that has dared to be as poetic as this one and few have even approached its artistry.

To conclude is simple: With The Third Man it is the greatest British film ever made. To miss it you are missing out on something that will add to your life.

- © Paul Page, Lenin Imports

Like other Powell-Pressburger pictures, the highest art of filmmaking is apparent from beginning to end. Clever use of photography, of directing, of making this a magical experience...it is the type of film that is poetic and you just don't want to end.

The first ten minutes set us up for the splendour that is to follow. This is real cinema, the way all cinema should be then, now and in the future. Story is set in this world (graced with glorious Technicolor that brings the most beautiful hue to all things it touches), and the Other World (relegated to dye monochrome which makes the contrast to the colour of This World all the more striking) as it exists in the mind of an airman whose imagination has been affected by concussion.

Returning from a bomber expedition, Squadron-Leader David Niven is shot up. Last of the crew, minus a parachute, and believing the end is inevitable, before bailing out talks poetry and love over the radio to Kim Hunter, American WAC on nearby air station. Miraculously Niven falls into the sea, is washed ashore apparently unhurt, and by strange coincidence meets Kim. They fall desperately in love.

Meanwhile in the Other World there's much bother. Owing to delinquency of Heavenly Conductor Marius Goring, Niven has failed to check in, and Goring is despatched to this world to persuade Niven to take his rightful place and balance the heavenly books.

Obviously experimental in many respects, this film looks as fresh today as it did 60 years ago. The tricks are never out of place, they are there to push the story along.

All the actors give performances beyond reproach. But to single one out then the pick of the best would be the marvellous Roger Livesey, a wonderful actor with one of the best voices I have ever heard. Now almost forgotten, he was a favourite of Powell-Pressburger's and he is a treasure that you should treat yourself to.

In 2004, it was voted the 2nd best UK picture of all time by UK voters. Michael Caine's Get Carter was 1st.

It's night over Europe, the night of the 2nd May 1945: a crippled Lancaster Bomber struggles home across the English channel. All the crew are dead save for the young pilot desperately scanning the radio waves for signs of life.

His prayers are answered. June (Kim Hunter), a young radio operator, picks up the signal, and in the final moments of the young flyer's life, a special bond is formed.

The next morning, washed up on an English beach, Squadron Leaser Peter Carter (David Niven) is still alive! He finds June, and the two fall instantly in love. Somehow he has survived. It's a miracle ... or is it?

Peter Carter should have died that night but a heavenly escort missed him in the fog over the channel, and now he must face the celestial court of appeal for his right to live.

- © Rank / Itv

UK Dvd Available Here


Used - very good.

A Matter of Life and Death

a matter of life & death
© Rank / Itv

powell & pressburger - a matter of life & death, 1946
© Rank / Itv

powell & pressburger - a matter of life & death, 1946
© Rank / Itv

powell & pressburger - a matter of life & death, 1946
© Rank / Itv

powell & pressburger - a matter of life & death, 1946
© Rank / Itv

A Matter of Life and Death UK Dvd
A Matter of Life & Death
UK Dvd

British War Dvds


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