A group of Anglican nuns travel to a remote location in the Himalayas (the Palace of Mopu, near Darjeeling) to set up a school and hospital for the local people, only to find themselves increasingly seduced by the sensuality of their surroundings in a converted seraglio high up in the mountains, and by the local British agent Mr Dean (David Farrar). Clodagh (Deborah Kerr), the Sister Superior, is attempting to forget a failed romance at home in Ireland. Tensions mount as Dean’s laid-back charm makes an impression on Clodagh, but also attracts the mentally unstable Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron), who becomes pathologically jealous of Clodagh, resulting in a nervous breakdown and a violent climax. In a subplot, ‘the Young General’ (Sabu), heir to the throne of a princely Indian state who has come to the convent for his education, becomes infatuated with Kanchi, a lower caste dancing girl (Jean Simmons).
Black Narcissus achieved acclaim for its pioneering technical mastery and shocked audiences at the time of release with its vibrant colour and the themes of the film. Audiences gasped at some of the scenes, notably the shot of the vibrant pink flowers, which shown on the big screen was a spectacle at the time. The film’s clever use of lighting and techniques have had a profound impact on later film makers, notably Martin Scorsese who used the extreme close ups technique of the nuns for Tom Cruise’s character around the pool table in Color of Money. Martin Scorsese has said that the film is one of the earliest erotic films, in the last quarter of the film in particular, which caused controversy given its Roman Catholic content. The film was one of his favourites as a boy, and Scorsese has stated that one of the greatest experiences he has had with film is viewing Black Narcissus projected on a massive screen at the Director’s Guild in 1983. In Michael Powell’s own view this was the most erotic film he ever made. “It is all done by suggestion, but eroticism is in every frame and image from beginning to end. It is a film full of wonderful performances and passion just below the surface, which finally, at the end of the film, erupts”.
Peeping Tom is a 1960 British thriller film directed by Michael Powell and written by the World War II cryptographer and polymath Leo Marks. The title derives from the slang expression ‘peeping Tom’ describing a voyeur. The film revolves around a serial killer who murders women while using a portable movie camera to record their dying expressions of terror.
The film’s controversial subject and the extremely harsh reception by critics effectively destroyed Powell’s career as a director in the United Kingdom. However, it attracted a cult following, and in later years, it has been re-evaluated and is now considered a masterpiece.
Animal Farm is an allegorical novella by George Orwell published in England on 17 August 1945. According to Orwell, the book reflects events leading up to and during the Stalin era before the Second World War. Orwell, a democratic socialist,was a critic of Joseph Stalin and hostile to Moscow-directed Stalinism, especially after his experiences with the NKVD and the Spanish Civil War. In a letter to Yvonne Davet, Orwell described Animal Farm as his novel “contre Stalin“.
The original title was Animal Farm: A Fairy Story, but the subtitle was dropped by U.S. publishers for its 1946 publication and subsequently all but one of the translations during Orwell’s lifetime omitted the addition. Other variations in the title include: A Satire and A Contemporary Satire.Orwell suggested the title Union des républiques socialistes animales for the French translation, which recalled the French name of the Soviet Union, Union des républiques socialistes soviétiques, and which abbreviates to URSA, the Latin for “bear”, a symbol of Russia.
Time magazine chose the book as one of the 100 best English-language novels (1923 to 2005); it also places at number 31 on the Modern Library List of Best 20th-Century Novels. It won a Retrospective Hugo Award in 1996 and is also included in the Great Books of the Western World.
The novel addresses not only the corruption of the revolution by its leaders but also how wickedness, indifference, ignorance, greed and myopia corrupt the revolution. It portrays corrupt leadership as the flaw in revolution, rather than the act of revolution itself. It also shows how potential ignorance and indifference to problems within a revolution could allow horrors to happen if a smooth transition to a people’s government is not achieved.
The Rutles (also known as the Prefab Four) are a band that are known for their visual and aural pastiches and parodies of The Beatles. Originally created by Eric Idle and Neil Innes as a fictional band to be featured as part of various 1970s television programming, the group (remaining a parody of The Beatles) recorded, toured, and released two UK chart hits in reality.
Initially created for a short sketch in Idle’s UK television comedy series Rutland Weekend Television, the Rutles gained international fame after being the focus of the 1978 mockumentary television film, All You Need Is Cash (often referred to as just The Rutles). Having been encouraged by the reaction to the sketch, featuring Beatles’ music pastiches by Neil Innes, the film was written by Idle, who co-directed it with Gary Weis. It featured 20 songs written by Innes, which he performed with three musicians as “The Rutles”. A successful soundtrack album in 1978 was, much later, followed in 1996 by Archaeology, which spoofed the Beatles’ Anthology series which had recently been released. The Rutles pre-date the American parody Spinal Tap by about a year.
A second film, The Rutles 2: Can’t Buy Me Lunch — modelled on the 2000 TV special The Beatles Revolution — was made in 2002 and released in the US on DVD in 2003, but it did not prove as popular as the original film.
A Clockwork Orange is a 1962 dystopian novella by Anthony Burgess. A satire portraying a future and dystopian Western society with (based on contemporary trends) a culture of extreme youth rebellion and violence: it explores the violent nature of humans, human free will to choose between good or evil, and the desolation of free will as a solution to evil. Teenage gangs, enraged by the docile, clockwork society that they find themselves living in, are constantly on the rampage. The main character, Alex, is a fifteen year old boy who revels in Beethoven as much as he loves his nightly episodes of violence and rape. Burgess experiments with language, writing in a Russian-influenced argot called “Nadsat” used by the younger characters and the anti-hero in his first-person narration. According to Burgess, the novel was a jeu d’esprit written in just three weeks. He bemoaned the fact that the book had been taken as the source material for a 1971 film that was perceived to glorify sex and violence.
The brutality and gang violence of A Clockwork Orange was inspired by a terrible incident during a blackout in London at the height of the Second World War, where Burgess’ pregnant wife Lynne (Llewela Jones), was assaulted, raped and robbed by a group of American soldiers. Subsequently she suffered a miscarriage and the couple lost their first child.
The book was written as a form of catharsis and a severe warning about a future where the state controls the way we think, and everyone is turned into good, little citizens . . . without the power of choice.
Opening from J.G.Ballards 1977 short story, ‘The Intensive Care Unit’.
Within a few minutes the next attack will begin. Now that I am surrounded for the first time by all the members of my family it seems only fitting that a complete record should be made of this unique event. As I lie here – barely able to breathe, my mouth filled with blood and every tremor of my hands reflected in the attentive eye of the camera six feet away – I realize that there are many who will think my choice of subject a curious one. In all senses, this film will be the ultimate homemovie, and I only hope that whoever watches it will gain some idea of the immense affection I feel for my wife, and for my son and daughter, and of the affection that they, in their unique way, feel for me.
It is now half an hour since the explosion, and everything in this once elegant sitting room is silent. I am lying on the floor by the settee, looking at the camera mounted safely out of reach on the ceiling above my head. In this uneasy stillness, broken only by my wife’s faint breathing and the irregular movement of my son across the carpet, I can see that almost everything I have assembled so lovingly during the past years has been destroyed. My Svres lies in a thousand fragments in the fireplace, the Hokusai scrolls are punctured in a dozen places. Yet despite the extensive damage this is still recognizably the scene of a family reunion, though of a rather special kind.