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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Black Narcissus (1947)

A group of English nuns are sent to a remote deteriorating palace, which was formerly the home of the Rajah's concubines, high in the Himalayan mountains in an attempt to educate the local populace especially its children. But the exotic and sensual atmosphere with its winds and native drums causes the nuns to breakdown emotionally, psychologically and sexuality until its violent climax. This remarkable film may well be Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's masterpiece. Stunningly photographed in rich, velvety three strip Technicolor by ace cinematographer Jack Cardiff, whose visuals won the 1947 Oscar, and superb art direction (it was filmed entirely in England though you'd never know it) by Alfred Junge, who also won the 1947 Oscar in his category. Its lushness never overpowers its intense psychical eye. In one of her best performances, Deborah Kerr is the sister superior who desperately strains to keep her wits about her as everything around her is falling apart. In an unforgettable performance that knocks it out of the ballpark, Kathleen Byron is the fragile Sister Ruth pushed beyond all endurance to insanity. David Farrar is the studly British agent who unintentionally contributes to the hysteria that develops in the nunnery. With Jean Simmons, Sabu, Flora Robson, Edmond Knight and a scene stealing May Hallatt.

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