A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

Why has it taken me until tonight to wonder if Wim Wenders took some cues for Wings of Desire—namely presenting the angelic domain in monochrome and the real world in colour—from this film? Likely answer: I am an idiot… But never mind. I have this now on DVD as part of those Rank Classics three-disc sets; no idea what the other two films are like (yet; I’ll be watching them next) but the set was only $20 and I was happy to pay that just for this one. I first saw this on the big screen, in fact, back in 2005 when a new print from the BFI played at the Chauvel as part of Cinematheque, and to this day I still say that print is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in a cinema; I don’t think I’ve ever seen a print of a 3-colour Technicolor film actually projected before, and it was quite astonishing to behold. That the film further proved to be one of the best I’ve ever seen was just the icing on the cake; the experience was really about seeing the film in this particular way. Of course, digital disc is quite adequate too; it’s still a singular film (and what else would a 1940s Powell & Pressburger film be if not singular?) in whatever form. I know it’s the usual practice for films to have happy endings because that’s how people like their stories to end, i.e. happily (however contrived or absurd the happy ending actually is in practice). This film, though, offers the best sort of happy ending, i.e. the one you actually want to happen as opposed to the one you’re more commonly given as a formality. If I were ever damn fool enough to make a list of what I thought were the hundred best films of all time, I’m fairly sure this would have to make an appearance on it somewhere.

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