End of the World Film Club #1: A Matter of Life and Death

A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

“Would you die for her?” “I would, but, er, I’d rather live.” Join us for our inaugural End of the World Film Club, in which we’ll watch and discuss Powell & Pressburger’s classic romantic fable…

Well, let us see, what day of the lockdown is this? Never mind what day of the lockdown, we hardly know what day of the week it is. If you can identify – these are strange, and in many ways, trying times after all – we thought it might help a little bit if we started a film club. Nothing fancy: we pick a film together, watch it at our leisure, then gather on Twitter to have a chat about it.

We’re going to be doing this fortnightly for now (let’s see how it goes) and each time, we’ll do a poll on Twitter to select our favourite screening out of three options, which will all be free and easily accessible online, and entirely dependent on what’s available.

For our inaugural End of the World Film Club (we love a snappy title), we chose from Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger’s romantic fantasy A Matter of Life and Death, free to watch as it’s fallen into the public domain (archive.org); Peter Strickland’s erotic psycho-drama The Duke of Burgundy (All4); and Olivier Assayas’ subtly supernatural, allusive drama Personal Shopper (iPlayer).

45% of you plumped for A Matter of Life and Death. Now, although we would have been happy to kick our club off with any of the trio of films up for selection, that we begin with this 1946 masterpiece fills us with joy. Ranked 90th in Sight & Sound Magazine’s critics’ poll (last taken in 2012), the film stars David Niven as a Second World War airman shot down and surely done for. Somehow, however, he escapes death and finds love with Kim Hunter’s radio operator, with whom he shared what were supposed to be his final moments.

The end? Hardly. Niven’s Peter Carter is subsequently summoned to the afterlife, where a case must be made to ascertain the life or death of the title. Shot in a mixture of Technicolor (the earthly realm) and monochrome (the afterlife), this fable is a near perfect marriage of the famed writer-producer-directors team and cinematographer Jack Cardiff and, along with The Red Shoes, is considered one of Powell & Pressburger’s finest.

What the critics said:

“A Matter of Life and Death, one of the finest products of the partnership between Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, is an extravagant allegory that manages to be simultaneously life-enhancing and necrophiliac. David Niven is at his most charming as a wounded RAF pilot who on the point of death confronts a heavenly tribunal.”

Philip French, the Observer, 2000

“Romantic, daring and beautiful.”

Martin Scorsese

End of the World Film Club #1: A Matter of Life and Death

Watch A Matter of Life and Death this week and join us for a Twitter discussion on Friday 17 April 2020, 7-8pm @TheDbleNgtve using #EndoftheWorldFilmClub / #EotWFC 

Our poll to select the next film club film will take place Wednesday 22 April

Posted on 10/04/2020 by thedoublenegative