Acclaimed British filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus) unleash a stunning, phantasmagoric marriage of cinema and opera in this visually ravishing, one-of-a-kind take on French composer Jacques Offenbach’s 1881 opera, in turn based on three stories by the late 18th century German fantasy writer E.T.A. Hoffmann.
“Truly unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Every element transfixed me.” – Martin Scorsese
Reuniting Red Shoes auteurs Powell and Pressburger with production designer Hein Heckroth and prima ballerina Moira Shearer (who famously starred as the doomed dancer in The Red Shoes), The Tales of Hoffmann is an even more extravagant plunge into the domains of dance, artifice, passion and Technicolor. While The Red Shoes was a narrative set in motion by music and dance, this artistic “sequel” is pure opera – a film composed entirely of music, dance, color, light and rhythm. Offenbach’s opera imagines writer E.T.A. Hoffman (Robert Rounseville) as the poet/protagonist of three fantastical tales of love and doom, the first involving a Parisian mechanical performing doll (Shearer), the second a Venetian temptress (Ludmilla Tcherina), and the third a consumptive singer (Ann Ayars) on a Greek island. As Hoffman dreams of the three bewitching women, each of them breaks his heart in a different way. Powell and Pressburger’s feverishly romantic film adaptation, which has amassed a loyal cult following among other filmmakers including Martin Scorsese, who obsessively screened it over and over, and George A. Romero, who called it “my favorite film of all time,” is a singularly thrilling cinematic experience – a riotous feast of music, dance and visual effects, and one of the most exhilarating opera films ever made. Propelled by a gorgeous music score performed by the Royal Philharmonic, this brand-new digital restoration of The Tales of Hoffmann (supervised by Oscar-winning editor Thelma Schoonmaker) features six minutes of previously unseen footage. (Dir. by Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1951, UK, 133 mins., Not Rated)