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THE TALES OF HOFFMANN

MICHAEL POWELL & EMERIC PRESSBURGER

This film screened 19th December 2010.

‘I remembered other European films of magic and fantasy, and my imagination took wings’: this is how Powell recalled The Tales of Hoffmann in part two of his compelling autobiography, Million Dollar Movie. Made at a time when British cinema was settling into a routine of light comedies and sturdy war films, this delirious Technicolor extravaganza, based on Offenbach’s opera, could never have found a popular audience, but it has worn as well as The Red Shoes. Powell was able to explore his ideal of ‘the composed film’, the pre-recorded soundtrack allows freedom to construct the visual side in fluid counterpoint, and to realise the ‘magic and fantasy’ of the material in a way that the conventional way of filming opera could never have done. The P-P team is joined here by the conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, given screen-time of his own as he stamps his copy of the score with the triumphant inscription ‘Made in England’.

124 minutes| U.K.| 1951| Colour| 35mm

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