MIFF Midlife winner Jay Cocks, who wrote one of this year’s finest films, Silence, for his long-time collaborator, Martin Scorsese, has chosen to present the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, “The Archers,” whose astonishing filmography of British masterpieces include Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes, The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp and this imaginative masterpiece, also known as Stairway to Heaven. Astonishingly imaginative and witty—and yes, profound—the 1948 A Matter of Life and Death imagines World War II flyer Peter Carter (David Niven), whose plane is damaged and his parachute ripped to shreds. He has his crew bail out safely, but figures it is curtains for himself. He gets on the radio and talks to June, a young American woman working for the USAAF, and they are quite moved by each other’s voices. Then he jumps, preferring this to burning up with his plane. He wakes up in the surf. It was his time to die, but there was a mixup in heaven. They couldn’t find him in all that fog. By the time his “Conductor” catches up with him 20 hours later, Peter and June have met and fallen in love. This changes everything, and since it happened through no fault of his own, Peter figures that heaven owes him a second chance. Heaven agrees to a trial to decide his fate.
Matter of Life and Death, A (Stairway to Heaven)
Sponsored by Jak Peters
U.K. 1947 – DCP – 104 Minutes
Directors, Writers: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Producers: George R. Busby, Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Cast: David Niven, Kim Hunter, Richard Attenborough, Kathleen Byron
Print courtesy: Sony Pictures