Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. United Kingdom, 1946. The Archers. Screenplay by Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger. Cinematography by Jack Cardiff. Produced by Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger. Music by Allan Gray. Production Design by Alfred Junge. Costume Design by Hein Heckroth. Film Editing by Reginald Mills.
Gorgeously photographed, full-colour romantic fantasy set during World War II, about a fighter pilot (David Niven) who jumps out of a burning airplance without a parachute and, miraculously, lives to tell the tale. It turns out that that the person up in the celestial heavens who was responsible for accompanying him to the afterlife screwed up (a first in thousands of years) and accidentally let him live, which causes all manner of problems in the bureaucracy of paradise while letting romance run rampant on earth. Before jumping, Niven had made the acquaintance by radio of an American operator (Kim Hunter) with whom he is now madly in love. The two of them enter a halcyon of their own that is interrupted when the foppish 18th-century aristocrat from the sky (Marius Goring) who was supposed to escort him to his next life shows up and announces that Niven must endure a heavenly trial and cheat death once more. There’s a lot of slack in Powell and Presburger’s plotting—it’s a minor fable with very little irony that is completely opposed to the psychosexual tension of Black Narcissus, which they made the next year—but the images are unforgettable and the romantic atmosphere is dewy without ever being sappy or trite.