Monday, March 7, 2011

194. Black Narcissus (1946)

Running Time: 100 minutes
Directed By: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Written By: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger from novel by Rumer Godden
Main Cast: Deborah Kerr, David Farrar, Flora Robson, Kathleen Byron, Sabu


Yikes! I know I say this more often than I should, but I'm going to say it again - this film was not for me. For those of you who are still interested, "Black Narcissus" is currently streaming on Netflix, so don't take my word for it, feel free to judge for yourselves.

The plot of "Black Narcissus" begins and ends with a group of nuns. Headed up by Sister Superior Clodagh (Kerr), the group of nuns travel to a remote location in the Himalayas, to a palace called Mopu, where they intend to build a school/hospital. They feel that the people in this part of the world could use the guidance of the nuns. Once they arrive, they are told that the palace is a converted harem. They are also told that everyone who comes to their convent is being paid to do so and that they shouldn't take on any sever cases in the hospital, because failure to save someone who is severely injured would make the people turn on them. Along with the Sister Superior, the nuns that join her are Sister Briony (Judith Furse) for her strength, Sister Honey (Jenny Laird) for her popularity, Sister Philipa (Robson) for her gardening skills and Sister Ruth (Byron) for her instability. The head mother feels that it would do Sister Ruth some good to go and be a part of the project. After spending some time there, the nuns all succumb to some type of temptation, with Sister Ruth being the most notable. Meanwhile, Sister Superior Clodagh is trying to forget an old romance and trying to fight off her attraction to Mr. Dean (Farrar), the local British Agent stationed at Mopu.


Another thing that I know I say a lot and don't stick to is - "I'm going to try to keep this review short". Trust me folks, I'm really going to TRY and keep this particular review as short and as sweet as I possibly can. Aside from the last twenty minutes or so of "Black Narcissus", where Sister Ruth snaps and we're treated to that magnificent reveal of a woman, who previously was entirely covered by the usual nun get-up, dawned in all red complete with bright red lipstick, this movie was a big wash out for me. It just seems that Powell and Pressburger seem to have their fingers on exactly what I'm not interested in and they're making movies just to spite me. I'm not interested in war, yet I struggled through "Colonel Blimp" ("struggled" is a strong work, that film IS growing on me). I wasn't interested in the slightest in "I Know Where I'm Going!" yet I struggled through that ("struggled" is the perfect word here...that film did NOTHING for me) and now I'm forced to struggle through a picture about nuns, a subject that held zero interest for me and once again reminded me of an "old persons film".

One major gripe I have is that all of the sisters looked the same and thus it was confusing in trying to tell them apart. Now, I hope I'm not uncovering my own unintelligence or ignorance by revealing that fact, but it's the truth. Like I said, all of the nuns were dressed in the usual nun get-up - you know the dress code in that profession - covered in head to toe in clothing with only your face showing, from your chin to the middle of your forehead. Aside from the slightly chunkier Sister Briony, all of the other women were approximately the same age and had facial features that resembled one another. Unless they referred to each other by name, I had a hard time telling who the hell was speaking. It also seemed that there were too many subplots that just never panned out or were possibly forgotten about. It was like "P & P" were foreshadowing to certain things and then forgot to follow up on them. What about the old man who was constantly sitting Indian style on the hill - whatever happened to him. It seemed as though they were prepping us for this character to become an integral part of the story, but he didn't. David Farrar was a good enough actor, but why was he even there, other than to tempt the sisters. He really didn't have a place and just seemed to pop in and out at random points and raise the sexual ire of the nuns. And what about the Sabu's character and his relationship with Kanchi (Simmons). Neither Sabu, nor Simmons' characters seemed to go anywhere and once the two began a romantic relationship they pretty much disappeared. And lastly, all of the flashbacks from Sister Clodagh just seemed unnecessary and seemed to elude to a possible breakdown or departure from "nunnery" for her character, that never came.

I've rambled on long enough. In the end, I am able to chalk "Black Narcissus" as the highest contender in the "not for me" column and write it off as "just another film watched" in a much bigger effort to watch all of the films in the "1001" book. I tried, it just didn't impress.

RATING: 2/10 I know that seems really harsh, but that's about the highest it's gonna' get from me and anything higher would just be me trying to win the hearts of the "P & P" fans.


March 7, 2011 4:08pm

1 comment:

  1. Ah, well, I guess being over 50 makes me appreciate "old persons movies"!
    As ever, you are due full repect for struggling through all these rather dated British movies that you are not really enjoying.


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