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A Matter of Life and Death

In Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s visually ravishing film, in which an elaborate stairway connects a Technicolor earth with a monochrome Heaven, David Niven plays a downed bomber pilot in WWII who senses that his having eluded a fiery death was arbitrary at best. On the operating table he finds himself suspended between Heaven (where he is summoned to argue his case in the celestial courts) and earth (where he has fallen in love with a heavenly WAC in the person of Kim Hunter). This is existential fantasy at its finest. “The doctor who befriends him diagnoses ‘a highly organized hallucination’ and much the same could be said of the film with its bewildering alternations of microcosm and macrocosm, poetry and pathos, monochrome and color. A stunning, subversive masterpiece.” — British Film Institute. The stunning supporting cast includes Marius Goring, Roger Livesey, Raymond Massey, and a very young Richard Attenborough. (1946, 104 min)

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