Combustible Celluloid
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With: Deborah Kerr, Flora Robson, Jean Simmons, David Farrar, Sabu, Esmond Knight, Kathleen Byron, Jenny Laird, Judith Furse, May Hallatt, Shaun Noble, Eddie Whaley Jr., Nancy Roberts, Ley On
Written by: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, based on a novel by Rumer Godden
Directed by: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 100
Date: 04/24/1947

Black Narcissus (1947)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Second to Nun

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After the black-and-white of I Know Where I'm Going! (1945) and the mixed tones of A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Black Narcissus brings us back to full color cinematography, and what cinematography it is! Jack Cardiff won an Oscar for his work on the movie, and just last month won another for lifetime achievement. I daresay you might never see another film with such astonishing use of Technicolor.

A group of nuns, led by Deborah Kerr, takes up residence on a high Himalayan mountain, hoping to teach the natives "proper" things. But the pure eroticism of the constantly-blowing wind, the wild flora and fauna, and the skin-baring natives cause many of the nuns to succumb to the ways of the world. You could say it's the most sensual nun movie ever made. The young Jean Simmons is very seductive as a native with a nose ring.

The Criterion Collection's Black Narcissus DVD and Blu-Ray is blessed with a commentary track by both Martin Scorsese and Powell himself, recorded in 1988, two years before Powell's death. Powell speaks with an aged grumble, but Scorsese sounds surprisingly spry and young (he still had his beard at the time). Jack Cardiff supervised the beautiful new transfer, and a short documentary discusses Cardiff and his work. Other extras include the original theatrical trailer and a collection of stills.

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