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500 Five-Star: Black Narcissus (1947)

November 23, 2012

Another day, another B.  I have been stuck on the Bs for over a year now, and if I continue at that rate for the rest of this project, I will be 53 years old by the time I finish.  Terrifying.  That might be a sign that I should really get my bum in gear (I know, I keep saying it.  One day I’ll mean it).

So, Black Narcissus: a film I had heard a lot about, and which I was looking forward to finally experiencing.  Did it live up to my expectations?  Yes, though not in the way you might think.  I went in with the belief that it would be a very admirable piece, that it would look beautiful, and that Deborah Kerr would be superb in the lead role.  All of those things came to pass.  I didn’t expect to be emotionally gripped or ferociously entertained, and I wasn’t.  I was surprised, admittedly, by the blatancy of the sexual overtones.  For a film made in the first half of the twentieth century, it’s really quite shocking, and I was fascinated by the use of colour and sound to represent the characters’ individual strains and desires.  The cinematography is rightly still celebrated to this day; once seen, it is impossible to forget the stunning drawn landscapes and intense use of shades, and while I might not have felt swept along by the plotting, I certainly was by the film’s design.  The only thing I really didn’t like about Black Narcissus was David Farrar’s performance, which was gratingly over-the-top, but the rest of the film is so impressive that this is forgivable.


Black Narcissus is a film to be impressed by, rather than gratuitously entertained, but it’s so impressive, that nothing else really matters.


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