Criterion Throwback Review: Powell and Pressburger’s ‘A Matter of Life and Death’

This review is by our guest writer, Laura Venning.

This month, A Matter of Life and Death is finally enshrined in the Criterion Collection, joining Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger favourites The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, and The Tales of Hoffman.

While often eclipsed by the dark melodrama of The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus, A Matter of Life and Death is an equally ravishing film that explores nothing less than war, peace, life, death, and love on a personal and cosmic scale. In this time of violent nationalism and bigotry, it’s a film that gives hope to the viewer and one that certain world leaders would do well to see.

It’s 1945 and Royal Air Force pilot Peter Carter (David Niven)’s time is up. His plane’s been hit and he’s hurtling towards his inevitable death. In his final moments, he quotes poetry to American radio operator June (Kim Hunter), but then, he miraculously washes up unharmed on the shore. The heavenly bureaucracy responsible for processing the deceased realises they’ve made their first mistake in a thousand years and dispatches Conductor 71 (Marius Goring) to retrieve him. Unfortunately for them, these extra hours on Earth have meant Peter and June have now met and fallen in love. In order to stay alive, Peter must appeal to the heavenly court and prove the depth of his love while kindly Doctor Reeves (Roger Livesey) fears his celestial hallucinations are a sign of brain damage.

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Valentine’s Day Suggestions from the Much Ado Team!

Love it or hate it, the best thing about Valentine’s Day is always the movies. From arthouse drama to cheesy rom-coms to depressing tear-jerkers, we all have our favourite kinds of romance film. There’s a wide variety of faves even amongst the Much Ado team, so hopefully our recommendation list will give you a new idea or two this February 14th!

(500) Days of Summer

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Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in (500) Days of Summer (2009). © Fox Searchlight Pictures

Why conform to watching a traditional romantic comedy this Valentine’s Day? Why submit to Hollywood’s saccharine nature and settle down with a formulaic feature when you could instead confront the heartache that comes with unrequited love and the realisation that no person is ever really what you imagine them to be? If you’re looking for a bit of realism in your romance, then 500 Days of Summer is the film for you. Its central theme can be summed up in one line delivered by a young Chloë Grace Moretz’s character, the younger sister of Joseph Gordon Levitt’s hopeless protagonist Tom, as she tells him that ‘just because some girl is into the same bizzaro crap as you, that doesn’t mean she’s your soulmate.’ Truer words were never spoken, indeed. There is no doubt that every one of us is at least somewhat guilty of convincing ourselves that someone is the one for us simply because they share a few of our interests. What 500 Days of Summer does is show just how problematic this kind of thinking is and how disastrous it can be for us in the long run, by having Tom break his own heart in attempting to believe that the titular Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is the person he has made her out to be in his head. Summer may like the same music as Tom, she may enjoy the same kind of cinema as he does, but that doesn’t mean that the two are made for each other, or that they are even remotely compatible. Reality can never truly match our expectations, 500 Days of Summer reminds us, and people are not ours to mould into whatever we want them to be. It is the perfect antidote to the onslaught of Nicholas Spark’s adaptations that infiltrate cinemas around this time of year and shows us that love is, often, not what we believe it to be.

– Hannah Ryan

 

Continue reading “Valentine’s Day Suggestions from the Much Ado Team!”