Sunday, September 12, 2010

Loose Nuns of Black Narcissus

By Steve Evans

If you've never seen Black Narcissus, co-directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, indulge yourself in the glorious Criterion Collection edition, recently revamped and re-released last month. Deborah Kerr leads as a nun charged with starting a mission in the mountains of the Himalayas, where the exotic locale and sensuous locals gradually push the holy women over the edge of sanity.

Behind the scenes, Powell was conducting a torrid affair with actress Kathleen Byron, above, having only recently broken off an extramarital entanglement, yes, with co-star Kerr, who was married to producer Tony Bartley at the time. I mention this so you'll take close note of the interaction between Kerr and Byron while viewing Black Narcissus. I'm betting the off-screen shenanigans between the director and his leading ladies lent a certain tension to their thespian exertions on the set.

Black Narcissus is one of the great Technicolor achievements of the 1940s and an absorbing psychodrama that stands with the best of the Powell-Pressburger oveure, which includes The Red Shoes and A Canterbury Tale.


Cinema Uprising c 2010 by Steve Evans. All rights reserved.