Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Black Narcissus, once more...

BLACK NARCISSUS was on once again and once again there I was watching it one more time, its a film that never palls and is so richly textured that one discovers new aspects to it. It is probably equal to BLOW-UP now among my best/favourite films ever ... as per my previous posts here.

It is on the one hand a very 1940s lurid melodrama set in that convent/harem high in the Himalayas, from the popular book by Rumer Godden. It is also maybe the best of the Michael Powell-Emeric Pressburger classics (I also love I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING, A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH, THE RED SHOES..) as key British films of the '40s. The look of this 1947 film is amazing, so many shots of the convent and the mountains and landscapes are beautiful as are those flashbacks to Ireland in that rich '40s Technicolor, as photographed by ace camerama Jack Cardiff (see also PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN, and that desert adventure LEGEND OF THE LOST, plus THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL etc, as per Cardiff label).

This time around I liked that early introduction to the convent as we follow the old Ayah (May Hallatt) around the deserted halls while the mother superior registers her disapproval of young Sister Clodagh being put in charge of the mountain convent. The other nuns are nicely depicted too: Sister Honey, Sister Briony and Sister Phillipa who plants flowers instead of vegetables ... Deborah Kerr at 26 (a decade before her lovely Sister Angela in HEAVEN KNOWS MR ALLISON) is ideal as Sr Clodagh and Kathleen Byron's Sister Ruth comes into her own in the closing scenes as she leaves the convent, puts on that red dress and lipstick and goes in search of Mr Dean, the land agent in the shorts, who has been having an unsettling feeling on both her and Sr Clodagh .... there is that scene in a red mist as Mr Dean rejects her .... the convent at sunset as the nuns search for her, and Sr Clodagh wearily goes to toll the bell .... this is delirious stuff that no matter how often one sees it keeps one enthralled. that stunning cut too and then the aftermath .... 
The nuns leave as the clouds swallow up the convent, and there is that deeply emotional final meeting of Sr Clodagh and Mr Dean when their affection and love is apparant as they have to say goodbye, and she asks him to do one final thing for her ... I love too that shot of the rain starting to fall on those giant leaves as the caravan moves on.  Back around 1980 when I got miy first vhs video recorder BLACK NARCISSUS was one of the first films I taped on those clunky cassettes, so we used to see that scene over and over ... I have not even mentioned Jean Simmons as Kanchi and Sabu as the young general with that perfume "Black Narcissus" from the Army & Navy Stores in London ... and to think it was all created in the studios. 
Soon: another late '40s Technicolor treat: Ealing's SARABAND FOR DEAD LOVERS.

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