Thursday, 28 February 2013

FEBRUARY 27, 2013

043 TALES OF HOFFMANN (1951) Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger *****

I have to disagree with Martin Scorsese on this one. While admiring the film he thinks it is flawed, I think it is a masterpiece. Of course it is stylised, it is opera and ballet and it may not be to some people's taste but I thought the whole thing was stunning. Hoffmann's stories are, of course, macabre and I'm sure this must have appealed to Powell's imagination as much as it lent itself to his visual style. The first tale of Coppelius and the automaton Olympia (the beautiful Moira Shearer whose point work - although I am no expert - seems phenomenal to me) is deceptively light until the shocking moment when Olympia has her head ripped off and is torn limb from limb. Yes, in the story, we know it is a doll but it still worked for me as a moment of horror.
The other two tales have Robert Helpmann (who appears in all the stories) as a more satanic figure. My favourite being the second which stars the wondereful Ludmilla Tcherina  as the courtesan Antonia who steals the mirror reflection of Hoffmann for her satanic patron. Ludmilla (below with Helpmann) was one of the great beauties of the ballet world and here she positively oozes a dark sexuality that almost made me think I was watching a  vampire film.  Other Powell regulars such as Frederick Ashton and Pamela Brown (who can convey so much with the roll of her eyes) are on hand. Al so with Leonide Massine, Robert Rounseville and Ann Ayars. Appearing in the last story is the Hungarian actor Meinhart Maur who had made is debut in Fritz Lang's HARAKIRI (1919. Wonderful.

Tales of Hoffmann

Also Viewed :

044  THE FIFTH ELEMENT (1997) Directed by Luc Besson *

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