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The Tales of Hoffmann

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The Tales of Hoffmann

Current Status:
In Season
Moira Shearer, Robert Helpmann
Michael Powell
Jacques Offenbach

We gave it a B

Based on Jacques Offenbach’s operatic adaptation of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s macabre stories, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s hand-tooled fantasia The Tales of Hoffmann is a dazzling technical showcase, from its rich, sensuous Technicolor to its copious special effects, which are no less effective for their theatrical origins. When Moira Shearer’s whirling clockwork figurine is dismembered bit by bit, being able to see her ”missing” limbs cloaked in black velvet only heightens the complicity; it’s a magic trick requiring audience participation. A logical distillation of Powell and Pressburger’s Red Shoes, Tales‘ splendid excess sometimes tilts toward gaudiness. What’s nectar to some is syrup to others, an overcooked reduction that can be too thick to swallow. EXTRAS Think you’re too macho for Tales? Directors Martin Scorsese — who cops to the film’s influence on Taxi Driver — and George A. Romero — who swiped the dismembered body bit for Creepshow — beg to differ. Production designer Hein Heckroth’s sketches (which are art in their own right) are included on the disc, as well as Powell’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice, a balletic short subject from 1956 with nary a dancing bucket in sight. But where are the 11 minutes cut from Tales before its release?