A Matter of Life and Death (Stairway To Heaven)

PG, 104 minutes


Newly restored in 4K by Sony Pictures Entertainment from the original Technicolor 3-strip picture negative, A Matter of Life and Death is the next title in our Essential Cinema series.

Introduction by Jerald Payonk, Board President, The Art Film Foundation 

Post-show Q&A by Jonathan Knipp, UIUC Media & Cinema Studies

Back from bombing Germany, RAF flyboy David Niven crashes into the Channel, despite American operator Kim Hunter’s efforts to talk him down — but he isn’t dead yet, since Collector 71 (Marius Goring), a previously beheaded French aristocrat, has missed his scheduled soul pickup due to heavy fog.

Asked to make a film promoting Anglo-American goodwill, Powell & Pressburger (The Red Shoes, Tales of Hoffman, etc.) soared into otherworldly whimsical fantasy, moving from the great Jack Cardiff’s Technicolor-drenched Earthly photography (more dazzling than ever in this new restoration), to a grandiose celestial trial with Raymond Massey as Niven’s snarling prosecutor, in glorious black & white (actually underdeveloped color, thus the pearly hue). As Goring remarks from Earth: “One is starved for Technicolor up there.” (1946, Powell & Pressburger, UK, PG, 104 min, 4K DCP Restoration)

“It is a film with incredible self-possession, at once a playful miniature of innocent love and grandiose epic.” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“One of the most audacious films ever made… breathtaking in its originality.” – Roger Ebert

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