Criterion Press Release: A Matter of Life and Death (Blu-ray)

3 Stars

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After miraculously surviving a jump from his burning plane, RAF pilot Peter Carter (David Niven) encounters the American radio operator (Kim Hunter) to whom he’s just delivered his dying wishes and, face-to-face on a tranquil English beach, the pair fall in love. When a messenger from the afterlife arrives to correct the clerical error that spared his life, Peter must mount a fierce defense for his right to stay on earth—painted by production designer Alfred Junge and cinematographer Jack Cardiff as a rich Technicolor Eden—climbing a wide staircase to stand trial in a starkly beautiful, black-and-white modernist heaven. Peppered by humorous jabs intended to smooth tensions between the wartime allies Britain and America, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s richly humanistic A Matter of Life and Death traverses time and space to make a case for the transcendent value of love.

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary from 2009 featuring film scholar Ian Christie
  • New interview with editor Thelma Schoonmaker, director Michael Powell’s widow
  • New interview with film historian Craig Barron on the film’s visual effects and production design
  • Interview from 2009 with filmmaker Martin Scorsese
  • The Colour Merchant, a 1998 short film by Craig McCall featuring cinematographer Jack Cardiff
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Stephanie Zacharek
    • United Kingdom
    • 1946
    • 104 minutes
    • Color
    • 1.37:1
    • English
    • Spine #939July 24, 2018

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Kevin Collins

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53 Comments

  1. Thank you for supporting HTF when you preorder using the link below. If you are using an adblocker you will not see link.

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  2. haineshisway

    Second greatest release announcement in the history of Blu-ray.

    I’m inclined to agree… after A Man For All Seasons for me.

    OK – I’ll bite. Which for you was the first greatest?

  3. Thank you, Criterion !!!
    As usual for us all, one amazing release announcement seems never to suffice; as it is the gateway to our further greed and delights; but, one can only hope that all other Criterion DVDs of P & P will soon be following.:)

  4. haineshisway

    Second greatest release announcement in the history of Blu-ray.

    and the third would be….the recovery of either the lost Chan films, or Erich von Stroheim's original cut of Greed? 🙂

    i agree with both of your choices by the way

  5. dana martin

    and the third would be….the recovery of either the lost Chan films

    Not wanting to rain on anyone's parade, but this would actually be of much more significance to me.
    —————

  6. Will Krupp

    Second only to FIRST NUDIE MUSICAL? 😉

    With respect, Will, I believe I already said that:

    RMajidi

    Bruce meanwhile might have some barely – a musical in mind?

    Never the same when you have to spell out these things <he wrote, with a smile distorted by tongue firmly pressing on cheek>

  7. Richard V

    Never seen the film but the plot sounds like a mash up of Here Comes Mr. Jordan and A Guy Named Joe.

    In some ways [e.g. the leading character’s external outcome depending on the resolution of the internal battle and perhaps vice versa; the character and viewer never really being sure as to what’s real and what’s not etc.] this film may be closer to the outstanding UK BBC series Life On Mars.

    But the thing is, in its imagery and artistry, this film stands unique.

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  9. RMajidi

    With respect, Will, I believe I already said that:

    Never the same when you have to spell out these things <he wrote, with a smile distorted by tongue firmly pressing on cheek>

    LOL. I totally didn't get that.

  10. Patrick McCart

    Especially if one is starved for Technicolor…

    And not just any old Technicolor either…

    Jack Cardiff – Archers Three-Strip Technicolor – a classification of art all its own.

  11. Patrick McCart

    Especially if one is starved for Technicolor…

    Ha, if you look at Marius Goring's lips at that point, he doesn't actually say Technicolor. I dunno, maybe they didn't have permission to say Techicolor when they filmed, or someone thought of it after filming.

    It will of course be a day one purchase when it's released in the UK (I don't know which company is releasing it yet). I must have been around 10 when I first saw it on TV (all in b/w), wide-eyed with wonder. Actually, I think my favourite P&P is The Red Shoes, but two masterpieces.

  12. Billy Batson

    Ha, if you look at Marius Goring's lips at that point, he doesn't actually say Technicolor. I dunno, maybe they didn't have permission to say Techicolor when they filmed, or someone thought of it after filming.

    It will of course be a day one purchase when it's released in the UK (I don't know which company is releasing it yet). I must have been around 10 when I first saw it on TV (all in b/w), wide-eyed with wonder. Actually, I think my favourite P&P is The Red Shoes, but two masterpieces.

    released in UK…I wonder if that will happen unless we get this release from Criterion……..otherwise ……………….. ?

  13. commander richardson

    released in UK…I wonder if that will happen unless we get this release from Criterion……..otherwise ……………….. ?

    I'd think Network are the favourites (they released Black Narcissus), after that maybe Arrow or Eureka or Criterion UK. It will happen.

  14. Patrick McCart

    Day one purchase. Anyone on the fence should just go ahead and get it because you won't be disappointed.

    Especially if one is starved for Technicolor…

    I always thought that "A Matter of Life and Death" was in Black and White. Guess my Kinescope copy was really older than I had ever realized.:roll:

    P.S. The only reason I'm buying it on Day One is because Yesterday was not a Pre-Order option.:cool:

  15. PMF

    I always thought that "A Matter of Life and Death" was in Black and White.
    Guess my Kinescope copy was really older than I had ever realized.:roll:

    P.S. The only reason I'm buying it on Day One is because Yesterday was not a Pre-Order option.:cool:

    It bounces back and forth between black and white and colour.

  16. Roger Grodsky

    Any idea how this release will compare to the blu-ray I purchased in Paris?

    https://www.amazon.fr/Une-Question-…pID=61XzwCCeCoL&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

    Considering how maligned the French (and German) blu-rays were and that this is being touted as the new restoration everyone has been waiting for, I'd say the difference should be, oh I don't know, HUGE!

  17. What ho! Sorry for being a tad late to the party.

    This is obviously quite wonderful news. The only thing taking the slightest edge of the excitement is that we knew this was coming – there was no way the 4K restoration as not going to get a Blu-ray release.

    Having seen this at the Cubby Broccoli in Bradford last December it gets the biggest recommendation I can offer. It was simply breathtaking.

  18. haineshisway

    Second greatest release announcement in the history of Blu-ray.

    Almost correct. You're just the one place off. 😀

    The greatest film ever made gets a 4K restoration? No contest. I pity every other film.

  19. PMF

    Any bets that "A Matter of Life and Death" will become Criterion's largest pre-order?

    That would be hard to judge. Given that this is being released during the (probable) July B&N sale, many may not preorder.

    It may be a sales leader though.

  20. PMF

    Any bets that "A Matter of Life and Death" will become Criterion's largest pre-order?

    I seriously doubt that. No one outside of die hard cineastes has ever heard of this film, unlike say The Breakfast Club or Silence of the Lambs.

  21. Worth

    I seriously doubt that. No one outside of die hard cineastes has ever heard of this film, unlike say The Breakfast Club or Silence of the Lambs.

    But wouldn't you say that it is the die hard cineaste that buys Criterion, to begin with?

  22. The cinematography in this film is so beautiful that I would venture to say it is perhaps the most beautiful ever put on film. They way they go from black and white to color with Kim Stanley close up on the radio in very stark shadows is breathtaking. This is right up there with Black Narcissus — perhaps even better. And, yes, classic film buffs have heard of this film and love it.

  23. PMF

    Any bets that "A Matter of Life and Death" will become Criterion's largest pre-order?

    It wouldn't surprise me if that honer is with Night of the Living Dead, it was around $17.XX at both Walmart.com and Amazon.com and during its release week it sold enough to make it to # 7 in the top 10 Blu-rays sold that week.

  24. Derrick King

    It wouldn't surprise me if that honer is with Night of the Living Dead, it was around $17.XX at both Walmart.com and Amazon.com and during its release week it sold enough to make it to # 7 in the top 10 Blu-rays sold that week.

    Consumers probably got mixed up and confused, being that the Living Dead falls in-between Life and Death; which is just a "Matter" of opinion.;)

  25. PMF

    But wouldn't you say that it is the die hard cineaste that buys Criterion, to begin with?

    True, but I think even among film fans this has a lower profile than most of the Fincher, Cronenberg and Wes Anderson stuff.

  26. Richard V

    Never seen the film but the plot sounds like a mash up of Here Comes Mr. Jordan and A Guy Named Joe.

    …er, no. Not even in the same universe, let alone the same ballpark. We're talking about one of the true masterpieces in the history of cinema here.

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