A Matter of Life & Death (1946)

Written & Directed by Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger

I caught this on TCM and in light of my marathon decided to go ahead and watch it, even though it was not on my list for Mr.’s Powell and Pressburger. At the end of the day I am glad that I did. My only previous experience with these two famous British filmmakers was The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, which I found to be amazing. In that film Roger Livesey and Deborah Kerr were fantastically amazing, but there was definitely a certain level of fantastic direction, but even more, writing. I think these two are great writers bases on these two experiences, but there is something to be said for actually translating that onto the screen as well.

The first act of this film is terrific. I was hooked immediately and completely bought into the world which they create. Peter (Niven) and June (Hunter) just hit it off, and to respond to some recent discussion about this, I totally bought the insta-romance between the two. Now it wasn’t perfect, but I wasn’t confused by it either, maybe because I am a romantic. The cut between the living world and the afterlife is awesome and I loved the use of color in doing so. Also, the set design in the afterlife is astounding. For the greater part of the film I was convinced that I was going to love it through and through and it would one day make my top 100. It might yet, but I have to say I was let down by the trial sequence.

Powell and Pressburger deal with high themes and ideas and I salute them for doing so and they almost pull it off perfectly. The idea here of a man escaping death and appealing because he has fallen in love is a great idea. But when it makes it to the trial it kind of just slows down way too much. I also felt uncomfortable with the USA v. UK sentiment between the two lawyers. It felt like it didn’t belong in a film dealing with love and death. If the filmmakers wanted to deal with that, they could have tried to do it symbolically, but I didn’t need that banter in this film. Powell and Pressburger have become very interesting directors that I very much look forward to seeing more of based on the two films I have seen.

Also, Roger Livesey. Super duper awesome. Dude is sweet as hell and has a voice like none other.

Adam Kuhn

Adam Kuhn was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Saint Charles Preparatory School. He studied History at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a contributor of The News Record, the twice-weekly, independent student news organization. He has been writing film reviews and blogging since 2009.

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