A Matter Of Life And Death - This Movie Magically Rocks
Dir: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
Starring David Niven, Kim Hunter, Roger Livesey, Marius Goring, Raymond Massey, Robert Coote, Abraham Sofaer, Little Dickie Attenborough
Could there be a better Christmas present that this gorgeously restored print of Powell & Pressburger’s masterpiece? Remarkable to think that this classic, much like it’s American angel-centric companion It’s A Wonderful Life, made the same year (1946), bombed on its initial post-War release.
David Niven was never smoother or more compelling that as Peter, the RAF pilot who falls through the fog, missing his pick up to the next world, due to the bad weather. (Tellingly, it is never referred to as “Heaven”, despite the film being retitled Stairway To Heaven for its US release, presumably inspiring Led Zep along the way.) Alive and back on terra firma, Peter tracks down June (Hunter) the radio operator he spoke his heart to before his impending death. They quickly fall in love – but the next world needs to balance the books, so an emissary (Goring) is sent to collect Peter, who refuses to go. Thus unfolds what is strangely one of cinema’s greatest, most fantastic courtroom dramas ever.
From the swirling Technicolor hues and licking flames of the film’s opening sequences to the move to black and white for scenes in the afterlife, Powell & Pressburger created one of the their most visually dazzling movies, even consulting Arthur C. Clarke on their opening crawl through the universe. These visual achievements are more than matched by the wit and imagination of the Archers’ script and, needless to say, all the performances are career bests.
A Matter of Life and death is not just one of the most remarkable, beautiful, moving, beguiling films ever committed to celluloid, it’s also – more simply – one of the greatest movie ever made.
As we said, the perfect Christmas present.
A Matter of Life and Death is on release in the UK and Ireland from December 8
Follow us on Twitter @lastwordonearth