Sunday, March 27, 2016

Paint It Black

We're not exactly on a Powell/Pressburger kick, but we did watch Black Narcissus (1947). I found it quite odd.

It stars Deborah Kerr as Sister Clodagh, an English nun who is sent to the Himalayas to set up a new convent and educate the local children. The convent was donated by a local warlord - it was the palace where he kept his concubines. That sounds luxurious, but it is set on a lonely, desolate, wind-haunted crag. The locals are suspicious of the nuns, until the warlord's son, Sabu, joins them. He is a hedonsitic man-child, wearing the titular Black Narcissus cologne, so he is a bit of a distraction for the nuns. But David Farrar, the warlord's overseer, is worse. He's a cynical European who has gone a bit native, and his rugged good looks attract the attention of the nuns, including Sister Clodagh.

Basically, this is the story of westerners slowly going mad in the "sensuous Orient." But why did I keep having the feeling that I was watching a musical comedy - The Singing Nun Goes to India? The cute kids running around? The funny donkey David Farrar rode around on? Just having nuns in the movie? I don't know. but it took the edge off a bit for me.

Aside from the hothouse psychology, I think this movie is most famous for its Jack Cardiff Technicolor photography. The scenic Himalayas were created entirely in the studio with painted backdrops and hanging miniatures. It's all stunning, but a little artificial, like the famous bell tower - I'm sure you've seen it. If so, did you want them to put up a railing or something?

Next, I suppose I should see The Red Shoes.

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