The Tales of Hoffmann (1951)
Newly restored version of the 1951 Powell and Pressburger classic, based on the 1881 opera by Jacques Offenbach. An anthology of fantastic and romantic adventures, recounted by the fableist Hoffmann (Robert Rounseville) and featuring Moira Shearer (The Red Shoes), Ludmilla Tchérina, and Ann Ayars. The film has been singled out by both Martin Scorsese and George A. Romero as a major influence on their own work.
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Critic Reviews for The Tales of Hoffmann
Only the slightly muddled structure detracts from what is otherwise an audacious cinematic experiment.
You might compare this to the 1948 Powell and Pressburger film The Red Shoes, though in many ways it is even more hallucinatory.
A worthwhile component of Powell and Pressburger's inestimable legacy.
One of the most completely realized marriages of color, movement, and music in the medium's history.
Hard to take, despite the clear personal commitment of director Michael Powell and the enormous amount of talent on display in the photography, set design, and choreography.
As intensely expressionistic as any film since Caligari, and at the same time a veritable nova of springtime élan, the movie inhabits a unique puppet-theater universe, and could seduce a eunuch.
While the dizzying array of design elements and magnificent vocal performances is impressive, 138 minutes is just too long to keep the interest of any but the pure opera devotee.
Lavishly mounted with some of the same actors of The Red Shoes, this filmed operetta is more impressive in its production design (Oscar nominated) than emotional impact.
As with The Red Shoes, the Archers achieve a truly amazing fantasy world, almost like a cartoon in which anything is possible.
For all the spectacle, it is more abstract than involving and the film never pumps with the blood of romantic passion that flows through so many Powell movies.
The result is a testament to both [Powell and Pressburger's] creativity and the inherent limitations of trying to transform one medium into another.
An unusual, magical, cinematically brilliant movie that deserves to be seen.
Audience Reviews for The Tales of Hoffmann
During the first intermission of a ballet in Nurnberg, students and other members of the audience retire across the street to a tavern for a quick beer before Act 2. While there, Hoffman(Robert Rounseville) starts to tell his stories of woe. So compelling are they, that his audience decides to skip the rest of the ballet, with the pipes being broken out, to hear what else he has to say; starting in Paris before the Eiffel Tower was built where he encountered Olympia(Moira Shearer).
"The Tales of Hoffman" is a highly entertaining mix of ballet and opera, where Moira Shearer dances her legs off while everybody else sings their hearts out. Visually, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger pull out all the stops with the aid of cinematographer Christopher Challis who makes the perfect use of Techicolor for these dreamlike fantasia, each set in a different locale. As such as the movie is about the different expressions of art(Hoffman is a famed poet by the end), these settings also resemble paintings and are works of art in themselves. It is no wonder then that Hoffman gets so lost in them, missing what is right in front of him all the time, the constant companionship of his faithful friend Nicklaus(played by Pamela Brown, thus even adding a bit of genderblending into the equation) through thick and thin.
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