Tag Archives: a matter of life and death

XL Popcorn – A Matter of Life and Death / Too Early, Too Late

One month in and it is spreading up into my neck from my right arm. Dictated reviews will be continuing until I know more about what I am dealing with.

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”lifeanddeathTitle: A Matter of Life and Death
Directors: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Year: 1946
Country: UK

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger just might be two of my all time favourites directors. A Matter of Life and Death is the fourth of their films that I have seen (The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus and The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp being the other three) I have yet to see one that would warrant less than 8 out of 10.

A Matter of Life and Death started its life as a piece of propaganda to bring the Americans and British together after world war two. Since both sides were wounded and friction had been generated on both sides during the American troops stationing in the UK it makes sense that there were tensions. This is why this film deliberately chose to have a British soldier fall for an American girl (since the other way was far more common). With the exception of one speech made extolling the virtues of America this film is not feel propaganda in the slightest.

The idea of the film is this: a British soldier (David Niven) has managed to cheat death and fall in love with an American radio operator (Kim Hunter). The “other world” notice this discrepancy and allow him to appeal his case in order to remain alive. It sounds very tacky when you explain it this way, but it works.

The reason it works is that a lot of it is left up to audience interpretation. Due to the ethereal nature of the “other world” no one in our world is being contacted other than the soldier himself. We also have a doctor (Rodger Livesey) who has been able to diagnose him with a brain issue that requires operation. The final judgement and court case happens concurrently with this operation. Therefore there is no way for us to know if he is either hallucinating or actually experiencing this fight for his life.

Another really important thing is that this “other world” is never referred to as heaven by those who resides in it. The only time and it is referred to as such is by a recently departed soldier. In this way things become a bit less cut and dry as to what is actually happening.

The court case itself makes for interesting watching. The prosecutor on behalf of the other world is an American who hates British people. Most of his arguments play on the idea of America being far better than Britain. This is where the propaganda probably came in and where someone in 2016 can find it a bit off putting. Politicians still make similar speeches in America, but enough has happened since 1946 to make it sound false. The conclusion of the court is obvious since was meant to repair Anglo American relations. I still teared up like a fool.

troptotTitle: Too Early/Too Late (Trop tôt/trop tard)
Directors: Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub
Year: 1982
Country: France

Too Early/Too Late is one of those films that I just do not get. It’s easily the most obscure thing that I have watched for this film this and will arguably remain as such right until the end. I gave it a fair go as I do with all the 1001 films… but I could not escape the impression that:

a) I am missing something fundemental here
b) this is a case of emporer’s new clothes
c) it would have been better to watch the non-English version.

This has a very interesting idea. The filmmakers read pieces about the suffering that suggest sparks to revolutions (the first third devoted to the French Revolution and the latter two thirds about the repression of Egyptians by the British). The title itself indicates poor timing of revolutions with them happening too early and them finishing too late.

The texts themselves are interesting in content, but the delivery is deadpan and quite dull. If there was more emotion in the readings it would have made for a more interesting movie.

You can also say the same about the images. You take Koyaanisqatsi which is all image and music, but no dialogue – the reason it is good are the interesting images and how they interplay with the music. Long takes and panning shots of Parisian roads or (what I assume is) the outside of an Egyptian school does not make for interesting watching.

I know there is an arguement that to be art it does not need to be entertaining and YES it actually made me think… but if only it wasn’t so flat. It could have been so much more than this.

Progress: 538/1007