Movies »The Tales of Hoffmann

directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (1951)

When Jim saw The Tales of Hoffmann in the Netflix sleeve, he asked what it was and I said “That is not for you”. While it is highly and rightfully praised for it’s cinematic beauty, a film set entirely to opera with no dialogue is a tough sell in my house, and probably many others. I like opera generally, though have to admit, this one isn’t my favorite musically.

Luckily, that hardly matters since the real spectacle here are the surreal, fantastical and sometimes creepy imagery that Pressberger and Powell have created.

The plot, concerning a poet’s three big loves lost to a wind up doll, a gorgeous temptress, and an opera singer is full of fun flights of fancy. Like a man who sells eyes to make you see the world as you wish it or another that turns candle wax into jewels.

While I admit, I found the third act a bit of a snoozer, this is a film unlike many you’ll ever see. If you are familiar with their more popular work, The Red Shoes (a previous Brix Pick) you have some idea of the visual spectacle that awaits you. Not only are the sets stunning (such a shame no one makes unrealistic sets for movies anymore) but the costumes are amazing.

While it was a surprise to read that George Romero sites this as a most favorite and inspirational movie, I’d not be shock at all if fashion designers took to it for the insect body suits, eyes adorned with flower petals, gold manicures, eyeball printed trench coats, and that awesome candle wax necklace that I would buy in a heartbeat.

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Posted on February 23, 2011

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