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United Kingdom 1946
Directed by
Michael Powell / Emeric Pressburger
104 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Matter Of Life And Death, A

Like Powell and Pressburger’s first commercial disappointment, A Canterbury Tale (1944), A Matter Of Life And Death was intended to bolster post-war US-UK relations. It tells of young airman and poet, Peter Carter (David Niven), who in the last days of the war due to an oversight by the Divine One, miraculously survives when he bails out of his damaged plane without a parachute. He meets American radio operator June (Kim Hunter), but a Heavenly emissary (Marius Goring) is sent to retrieve him.

With Blithe Spirit released the previous year and It’s A Wonderful Life, released the same year,  the idea of communication between the living and the dead was, very understandably, a popular one. Featuring striking art direction by Alfred Junge and Jack Cardiff's always distinctive photography, compared to its peers this is the only one that gives due weight to the extra-mundane (as much as it looks like it was inspired by The Wizard of Oz, 1939) rather than simply using it to spice up the mundane.

P & P regular Roger Livesey appears as Dr. Reeves, a village doctor cum neurologist treating Carter in what is possibly the fruitiest and most deliciously contrived (and that is saying something) of all the uniquely British team’s productions.




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