Michael Powell is a great British film director whose films were unfortunately forgotten and lost for a while. This is especially odd since Powell’s films are not that old. They are, especially when it comes to A Matter of Life and Death, gorgeous, fascinating, and real art.
The gem in The Films of Michael Powell 2 DVD set is A Matter of Life and Death (released in the U.S. as Stairway to Heaven). This is an imaginative, fascinating movie.It stars David Niven as Squadron Leader Peter Carter and Kim Hunter as June, the American radio operator he falls in love with as his plane is crashing. There is a mistake for although Peter Carter is due in heaven he has survived the crash. A French fop angel is sent to retrieve Carter but has a very hard time doing his job. It is Powell’s heaven that really makes this film cinema.
There is of course a lot more to this Michael Powell film than just another angel has to go get the guy plot. Carter gets a heavenly trial in which he can defend his right to continue living as the same time his doctor is planning an operation as he thinks it is some kind of brain lesion.
Powell and A Matter of Life and Death do have a sense of humor such as the scene where the American pilots arriving in heaven all rush to the Coke machine and the odd one-liner. The heavenly trial is both serious and comical. It is also a trial of the United States and England.
The film does strobe a bit and briefly in the close-up shots of the British lawyer during the trial.
The extra features on the first Michael Powell film are an interview with Michael Scorsese on this film and a commentary track by some film historian
The second DVD in The Films of Michael Powell is Age of Consent (1969) starring James Mason and Helen Mirren, two of England’s greatest actors. Mason plays a fictionalized and screen version of Australian painter Norman Lindsay. The painter goes to a remote part of Australia in search of inspiration. There he finds Cara, an innocent young woman (Helen Mirren in her first movie) who becomes his muse and his love interest. There is a secondary story involving Cara trying to save up money to leave her island and her greedy grandmother.
Age of Consent is a movie about art that certainly has its lush moments but does not quite bring anything new to the painter and his young, nubile muse genre. The bonus feature interview with Helen Mirren on her first film experience is quite interesting.