The Lush Technicolor of Black Narcissus

Inside Criterion / On the Channel — May 24, 2018


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n the 1940s, legendary British filmmaking duo Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger took the eye-popping, beautifully saturated palette of Technicolor to delirious new heights. For this month’s episode of Observations on Film Art, now playing on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck, scholar Kristin Thompson explores the vivid use of color in one of their most celebrated works, the 1947 drama Black Narcissus. Set in a convent run by Anglican nuns in the Himalayas, the film depicts the isolation and extreme weather of the landscape, which combine with interpersonal tensions to drive the pious heroines to the brink of madness. Thompson offers insight into how Technicolor films were conceived and details how production designer Alfred Junge and cinematographer Jack Cardiff created an otherworldly atmosphere that reflects the psychological arc of the film’s characters. Check out the above introduction, then head over to the Channel to watch the piece in its entirety along with our edition of the film.