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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 6:38 pm 

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The Tales of Hoffmann

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Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger create a phantasmagoric marriage of cinema and opera in this one-of-a-kind take on a classic story. In Jacques Offenbach's fantasy opera The Tales of Hoffmann, a poet dreams of three women—a mechanical performing doll, a bejeweled siren, and the consumptive daughter of a famous composer—all of whom break his heart in different ways. Powell and Pressburger's feverishly romantic adaptation is a feast of music, dance, and visual effects, and one of the most exhilarating opera films ever produced.

Special Features

• New, restored high-definition digital transfer
• Audio commentary by director Martin Scorsese and film music historian Bruce Eder
• New video interview with director George A. Romero
• The Sorcerer's Apprentice (1956), a short musical film directed by Michael Powell, based on the Goethe story
• Rare collection of production designer Hein Heckroth's design sketches and paintings
• Gallery of archival production and publicity photographs
• Original theatrical trailer
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Plus: a new essay by film historian Ian Christie

Criterionforum.org user rating averages


................


The DVD is currently wrapping up production, according to the latest Criterion newsletter. What's it been, six years since it was announced in a catalogue?


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 8:51 pm 

Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 7:01 pm
So, although I've heard of this, there's no info on imdb. Can anyone tell me about this film? I know nothing.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 8:54 pm 

Joined: Tue Jul 09, 2013 12:43 am
I'm in the same boat, what's it about? I am assuming (although I would love it to be) that it is not a film about dustin hoffman.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 9:16 pm 
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The British Film Institute is running a Powell/Pressburger retro, a good place to start your reading:


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 9:16 pm 

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In Heaven wrote:
So, although I've heard of this, there's no info on imdb.

Do you mean apart from the synopsis, numerous user comments and links to external reviews?

Quote:
Can anyone tell me about this film? I know nothing.

For pities' sake, you're on the internet. Here's a clue


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 9:27 pm 
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In Heaven wrote:
So, although I've heard of this, there's no info on imdb. Can anyone tell me about this film? I know nothing.

You likely misspelled "Hoffmann." If you type "Tales of Hoffman" into IMDb's screwy search engine, you're directed to an obscure Austrian film from 1911 (with no other title options).


Last edited by FilmFanSea on Fri Aug 05, 2005 9:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 9:33 pm 
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I'm definitely interested in seeing this, as I love all of the other Criterion Powell & Pressburger films, but the reviews that I've seen aren't very positive. The criticism is that there's nothing to latch on to emotionally and that too much focus was put into the sets and opulence of the production. I'll probably blind-buy it regardless, but I'm wondering if anyone has any response to that (I'm speaking of the "External Reviews" on IMDB). I loved "The Red Shoes", but not because of the ballet segment. If this is just a blown-up, extended version of that sort of thing, I may be disappointed.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 11:04 pm 

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jorencain wrote:
I loved "The Red Shoes", but not because of the ballet segment. If this is just a blown-up, extended version of that sort of thing, I may be disappointed.

Well, I see the point of a comparison of style in SOME regards with The Red Shoes, but it's a filmed version of Offenbach's opera by the same name, with some cuts of the original score (the opera itself was never quite definitively completed, so there are a number of versions of it over the years), so in that sense I don't think it compares to The Red Shoes at all, since that is a film with very integrated ballet sequences, but a dialogue/narrative structure around it.

I would say one that loves the Hoffman film will love The Red Shoes, but possibly not the other way around, if one is allergic to opera.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 11:48 pm 
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LIke the 18 minute Red Shoes Ballet, Hoffman is a totally "composed film". It is not nearly as powerful or engaging to me as Red Shoes (which I consider a masterpiece anyway) but for Powell/Pressburger fans it must be formally fascinating - certainly for the composition, blocking and staging and also for the wonderful use of color. (Jack Cardiff again.) And it has deliciious insider touches like Pamela Brown playing the "pants" role to Robert Rounsville. Although I am not fond of those old Sadlers Wells English language versions of French and German operas/operettas the Offenbach Tales of Hoffmann is in a league of its own musically as a self reflecting piece on the nature of art (like The Red Shoes, with Bobby Helpmann as Copelius/Miracle etc playing the Anton Walbrook/Lermontov role from Shoes) thus the movie is thematically central to Powell. The big minuses in the picture are -I find anyway - Rounsville who is a very flat performer (and not much better a singer) and the rather dull final "Antonia" episode with Ann Ayars which only comes alive at the end as the movie breaks out into "reality". The central Barcarolle episode with the inspired pairing of dropdead gorgeous Ludmilla Tcherina (in "tropical" Technicolor makeup) and forever perverse Bobby Helpmann is terrific - and a wonderful exercise in Technicolor Turquoise and Gold. And the opening episode is all about Moira and the dance, in sublime yellow.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2005 2:14 am 
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Quote:
What's it been, six years since it was announced in a catalogue?

Yep, back in 1999, before the cataclysm of the Y2K, which helped further the delay of this title.

Seriously, it was about time. I just hope Derzu Uzala and Cocktail Molotov are next in the on limbo, already anounced, Criterion titles.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2005 2:49 am 
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Well, if they keep the original LD commentary with Scorsese and Bruce Eder on there, anyone not totally thrilled withe the film itself can at least enjoy some spectacular visuals while listening to one of the better (IMO) CC commentaries. This is George Romero's favourite film, btw.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2005 4:24 am 
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Preface: I'm trashed.

Question: Is this the same source material as the opera by offenbach?


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2005 5:27 am 
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Yes it certainly is.

The Opera is particularly wonderful and a very special "case" in Offenbach's oeuvre and a major work in classical music (although others might argue for La Belle Helene.)

Powell and Pressburger's adaptation is inspired - I guess you could say_ by Thomas Beecham's foundation role in the Sadller's Wells Opera company at Covent Garden after the war when Britain was going through such agonizing privations. The "thing" then was to re-case all of this musical and balletic culture into an English context (this is - fascinatingly quite different to the context and milieu of Red Shoes in which the participants - in 1948 Britain- are what we would now call multicultural.. but that's another story, as is the hommage to Diaghiliev and Powells' sublime hommage to all all great entrepeneurs and visionaries in Red Shoes and the majesty of art.)

Back to Hoffmann. One of the movie's sins is - to me - to render the music less powerful (certainly the English lang. translation doesn't help). And certainly a fine production of the Offenbach can take away the most sophisticated breath (which this movie doesn't, but Hoffmann - maybe like Powells' 30s quota quickies is a late-minded and well intenioned "push" for British self esteem after the horrors of WW2 (just as Blimp is a plea for us all to remember humanity). But don't ask me - I'm not British!


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2005 11:49 am 
All I know is that this film was a HUGE influence on George Romero and Night of the Living Dead in particular.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2005 11:50 am 

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One item mentioned in the supplementary material to the LD release that would make a kick-ass extra (if it even still exists) is a recording of Beecham himself "singing" through the whole score for P & P's benefit before production! Of course a little could go a long way, but anyone who's heard the rehearsal recordings of Beecham knows he's a pretty hilarious character.

What do you think, should I email Mulvaney and see if they can further delay the release while they look for the thing? :twisted:


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2005 3:17 pm 

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analoguezombie wrote:
All I know is that this film was a HUGE influence on George Romero and Night of the Living Dead in particular.

In the documentary that accompanies the 4 disc Dawn of the Dead Romero does indeed sight Tales of Hoffman as a major influence, however having seen P and P's film and most of Romero's output, I see nearly no direct correlation.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2005 4:29 am 
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Correction post (before my NY friend bashes me up)

DP Christopher Challis (his first and a hand on from Jack) with Freddie Francis (credited as "Fred" as handler.)


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2005 4:58 am 
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Yes, I spent an interesting session talking to Jack Cardiff about shooting in 3 strip technicolour, with special relation to A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH which was about to screen... Apparently there were a series of prisms, devilishly difficult to align correctly - the process was as much an art as a craft as the results attest... Cardiff incidentally is also an accomplished landscape painter and still photographer (of Marilyn Monroe et al. no less) ... Christopher Challis stepped in to Cardiff's shoes on TALES OF HOFFMANN, while Cardiff I guess was kicking off his directorial career with the Errol Flynn starring unfinished feature WILLIAM TELL (apparently would have been the first in Cinemascope), which wrapped after just 30 minutes of footage had been shot... Later of course, as director, Cardiff would get to replace none other than John Ford (taken ill - the bottle) on YOUNG CASSIDY in 1965...

Any ideas if this will be ready for November (PICKPOCKET & RAN already due) or will run into '06?...


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2005 6:30 am 
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Yes all the goss about Erroll is in Cardiff's book "The Magic Hour", followed by Chris' great book "Are they Really so Awful".


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2005 6:36 am 
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Yes, it was just published when I met him... Lovely MM photo on the cover of the Faber & faber edn...


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2005 1:34 pm 
BWilson wrote:
analoguezombie wrote:
All I know is that this film was a HUGE influence on George Romero and Night of the Living Dead in particular.
In the documentary that accompanies the 4 disc Dawn of the Dead Romero does indeed sight Tales of Hoffman as a major influence, however having seen P and P's film and most of Romero's output, I see nearly no direct correlation.

From reading stuff with Romero I think the primary influence was in the realm of special efects. He says watching Tales of Hoffman gave him the confidence to make effects heavy films that were also great stories. It also pushed him to make his own, uncompromised, films.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2005 4:24 pm 
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In the September 2002 edition of Sight and Sound (the big poll issue), Romero says: "..."it's my favourite film of all time; the movie that made me want to make movies."


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2005 8:46 pm 
Matango wrote:
In the September 2002 edition of Sight and Sound (the big poll issue), Romero says: "..."it's my favourite film of all time; the movie that made me want to make movies."

wouldn't it be great if Criterion got him to do a commentary


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 11, 2005 4:20 pm 
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Powell & Pressburger's, The Tales of Hoffmann has some of the greatest in-camera special effects you'll ever see; a gorgeous film, very unusual, probably for fans of The Archers only, but long overdue on DVD. I have the expensive Japanese DVD and will gladly replace it with a restored edition and the LD commentary.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 23, 2005 1:31 pm 

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What is The Sorcerer's Apprentice like? Any Fantasia connection?


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