A poet dreams of three women—a mechanical performing doll, a bejeweled siren, and the consumptive daughter of a famous composer—all of whom break his heart in different ways. Powell and Pressburger create a phantasmagoric marriage of cinema and opera in this one-of-a-kind classic.
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Powell's and Pressburger's attempt to recreate the fantastical worlds of "Les contes d'Hoffmann" with the help of film effects is a clever move. A real achievement of the film is the projection of the narration into unrealistic and colourful spaces that underline the artificiality of the whole settings. Although some things appear a little oldfashioned today, the Olympia episode is a real highlight of filmed opera.
It might be a slight dig at the self-seriousness of poets and their muses, or at least I hope with an ending more comic than tragic. Or it could just be a vivid conception of fantasy, a resplendent display of colour and design, tangible proof of cinema's aura. Happy to foot the bridge between opera and I, and I have a lot of narrative problems I will dismiss for a work of such imagination.
Prix Spécial du Jury à Cannes, Prix de la Commission Supérieure Technique et Ours d'Argent à Berlin (1951), cette oeuvre fastueuse reste un monument incontournable dans l'histoire du cinéma, un véritable chef-d'oeuvre d'intelligence et de beauté, d'une finesse et d'une sensualité extrêmes, un vrai raffinement de l'esprit qui délivre, éblouissant et inoubliable, un enchantement permanent et durable. www.cinefiches.com
Undeniably unique and suffused with great craftsmanship in all areas of musical theater transformed to film. Although Jacques Offenbach isn't my favorite composer, and the operatic acting may seem strange to those expecting something from narrative movies, I can't deny it's a consummate
production of dance/music/design in all its fantastical
abundance. Powell and Pressburger aim very high and attain success.
Overstuffed and overlong -- the vivid excitement of the 20 minute Red Shoes Ballet is here dulled into archness, the charm wears off in a hurry. Helpmann, Massine and others manage some fine moments, but poor Robert Rounseville sings like an angel and acts like Keanu. It's all been done better elsewhere -- check out Bergman's film of THE MAGIC FLUTE, which doesn't sink under the weight of all that gimmickry.
I guess I have to say I'm not one to judge this film, as opera is an art form I have yet to understand or appreciate - and this film is not much more than a filmed opera. As bizarre and phantasmagoric as the imagery is, it really isn't enough to sit through two and a half hours for. If you can appreciate opera, it might be for you, but it doesn't really work as a film, even for fans of director Michael Powell.
Even though I don't understand a damn thing about opera, this film is still a feast for the eyes as Powell and Pressburger take their filmmaking talents to a whole other level as they transcend the cinema in an impressive and ballsy work of art.