Saturday, June 2, 2012

Black Narcissus

How do you follow up the first entry in your Canon when that entry is nothing short of your favorite film of all time? How about with a film from your favorite directors? That film would be Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's BLACK NARCISSUS.

It's a film I was fortunate enough to revisit recently on 35mm, and more than ever it affirmed its place among the all time greats. A cloister of nuns are slowly driven mad by the intoxicating Himalayan air - well, that, and burgeoning sexual desire. It may be the most erotic film this side of Bertolucci, and Jack Cardiff's Pinewood-based production design has everything to do with it. The visuals alone send the mind into sensory overload, and much in keeping with my aim at brevity, they do a nice job of speaking for themselves.



I especially like that last one, which captures Jean Simmons' young beauty Kanchi amidst a private dance. It's one of many moments in this movie in which we feel as though we're eavesdropping, privy to something we are not meant to see. And that is what ultimately sets this apart from other world-is-our-playground type Western stories. The nuns here are very much on the outside looking in at another culture, but what they see is so affecting that they can't help but let it get to them. Any efforts to change what they see are futile. They are, like us, voyeurs at best.

No comments:

Post a Comment