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Matter of Life and Death, A (reissue)


Stars: David Niven, Kim Hunter, Roger Livesey, Raymond Massey, Marius Goring, Richard Attenborough, Robert Coote, Kathleen Byron

Director: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

One of Britain's most famous movies: bizarre, beautiful, poignant and at times exciting, with a plot - about a World War Two pilot, Peter (Niven) who, shot down, spends his last moments talking to a young American woman (Hunter) working for USAAF before finding himself caught in a limbo between heaven and earth - that is unique.

After a collector of souls (Goring) admits to 'missing' Peter in the fog as he jumps from his plane, Peter appeals against his fate, and a Heavenly tribunal is assembled to decide whether he lives or dies.

Impressive portrayals from Niven, Hunter (five years before her Oscar for A Streetcar Named Desire) and Livesey, fresh from his triumph in the same directors' The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp) as the psychoanalyst intimately involved in the strange affair, whose events are played out at a high pitch of tension.

Partly in vivid Technicolor (inevitably shot by the legendary Jack Cardiff) and partly in black and white, the film is an experience you won't soon forget.

David Quinlan

UK 1946. UK Distributor: Park Circus (originally Rank). Technicolor/black and white.
104 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 04 Dec 2017