Friday’s Film: The Tales of Hoffmann

CC Sheffield - Film Friday - Tales Hoffman Body
This film looks like an acid trip dream inspiration for sure.

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (The Red Shoes, Stairway To Heaven) create a feverishly romantic, phantasmagoric marriage of cinema, ballet and opera in this one-of-a-kind film on a classic story.  A melancholy poet dreams of three women — a mechanical performing doll, a bejeweled satanic siren and a consumptive opera singer — all of whom break his heart in different ways.  Shot in glorious three-strip Technicolor with over-the-top color schemes, highly stylized sets and sumptuous costumes, this lavishly imaginative film features world-class prima ballerinas Moira Shearer and Ludmilla Tcherina amongst a cadre of haunting characters — everything from a dozen half-human/half-puppets and a wild-eyed “magic spectacle maker” with foot-long eyebrows, to a bewitching courtesan and her “Satanic master, collector of souls.”

With ingenious use of visual effects incorporating old fashioned theatrical tricks, double exposures and reverse action and slow motion, this wildly innovative story-within-a-story evokes a sumptuous dream state of pure artifice and otherworldly strangeness.  No wonder Scorsese is a huge fan and supporter of the film, and none other than George Romero said this is the movie that made him want to make movies.
Dir. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1951, DCP, 128 min.


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