Sunday, September 24, 2006
TV Film of the Week: A Matter of Life and Death
An honourable mention to This Boy's Life (BBC1, Tuesday 11.05pm), but it has to be the Powell and Pressburger fantasy A Matter of Life and Death (Channel 4, Thursday 1.35pm).
Released in 1946, this fantasy stars David Niven as an airman who bales out of his plane without a parachute but fails to die because of a bureaucratic mix up in heaven. He then has to argue for his life before a celestial court.
Like all the best Powell and Pressburger films it is witty and full of ideas. It is particularly pleasing that earth is in colour and heaven is in black and white.
The film also has their characteristic sexiness and hint of something slightly perverted - in this case the doctor, played by Roger Livesey, who observes the village through his camera obscura.
Two elements root A Matter of Life and Death firmly in the last years of World War II. The first is the examination of Anglo-American tensions. The second is David Niven's words: "Politics - Conservative by nature, Labour by experience."
You can find out far more about this film on the Powell and Pressburger site.
Finally, a reminder that American prudery did not begin with reaction to Janet Jackson's breast. When A Matter of Life and Death was released in America as Stairway to Heaven, the little naked goatherd who appears near the beginning was edited out.