The Essential Movie Library #22: Black Narcissus (1947) - The Culture Files Blog - Los Angeles magazine
 
 

The Essential Movie Library #22: Black Narcissus (1947)

As hallucinatory as any mainstream movie ever

It can be stated here from the perspective of personal expertise that should you, by chance, watch this film late at night as sleep descends, you may wake the next morning asking yourself out loud, “What the hell was that?” The story of nuns running a monastery in the thin air of the high Himalayas and swept up in the throes of sexual hysteria is singular right down to the India of the imagination recreated on a British soundstage by director Michael Powell and producer Emeric Pressburger, and the performance of Kathleen Byron as a sister torn between repressed desire and escalating madness, with whichever side God is on becoming less clear. 

As though shot (by Jack Cardiff, who won the Academy Award for cinematography) on celluloid dipped in melted-down mind-altering drugs, Black Narcissus is as hallucinatory as any mainstream movie ever, its fevered tone bearing resemblance to 1958’s Vertigo (Essential Movie Library #2). Thematically it provides the unhinged second half of a Woman on the Verge double-bill—as conceived and presented by men, of course—with Bergman’s Persona (Essential Movie Library #20). The next morning you’re on your own.

Read them all:
The Essential Movie Library #21: Blade Runner
The Essential Movie Library #20: Persona
The Essential Movie Library #19: The Shop Around the Corner
The Essential Movie Library #18: Lost Highway
The Essential Movie Library #17: Tokyo Story
The Essential Movie Library #16: 8 1/2

The Essential Movie Library #15: City Lights
The Essential Movie Library #14: Seven Samurai
The Essential Movie Library #13: Lawrence of Arabia
The Essential Movie Library #12: Citizen Kane
The Essential Movie Library #11: Jules and Jim
The Essential Movie Library #10: My Darling Clementine
The Essential Movie Library #9: Double Indemnity
The Essential Movie Library #8: That Obscure Object of Desire
The Essential Movie Library #7: 2001: A Space Odyssey
The Essential Movie Library #6: Casablanca
The Essential Movie Library #5: The Lady Eve
The Essential Movie Library #4: The Third Man
The Essential Movie Library #3: The Passion of Joan of Arc
The Essential Movie Library #2: Vertigo
The Essential Movie Library #1: The Godfather Trilogy

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